House GOP Budget Committee Just Passed Their FY2017 Budget Proposal

628The House GOP-dominated Budget Committee held 9 hour markup, with several lawmakers going hoarse and one losing her voice. Democrats offered up 29 amendments, involving immigration reform, prescription drug prices, and equal pay. Every amendment failed, including one proposed by Rep. Debbie Dingell [D, MI-12] that would have designated $457.5M in emergency funding for Flint and required Michigan to match the federal funds. The budget advanced 20-16, with Democrats voting against and all but one Republican voting for the measure. Here’s their summary:

Balances the Budget

  • Balances the budget within 10 years – without raising taxes – and puts the country on a path to paying off the national debt
  • This budget achieves $7 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years through a combination of $6.5 trillion in savings coupled with economic growth
  • Savings are higher than any previous House Budget Committee proposal and discretionary spending is below 2008 levels
  • Requires consideration of legislation this year to achieve at least $30 billion in automatic spending reductions and reforms over the near term
  • Advances budget process reforms to promote fiscal discipline, and calls for a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year

Strengthens Our National Defense

  • Provides for greater security at home and strength abroad at funding levels above the president’s budget and with increased resources for training, equipment and compensation
  • Supports the bipartisan prohibition on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer of detainees to American soil
  • Identifies vulnerabilities in our nation’s refugee program and calls for oversight and rigorous screening
  • Calls for an improved and accountable Department of Veterans Affairs that can better deliver services and benefits to our veterans

Empowers Our Citizens & Communities

  • Promotes job creation and a healthier economy by calling for a fairer, simpler tax code, regulatory reform, expanded energy production, and a more efficient, effective and accountable government
  • Repeals all of Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)
  • Endorses patient-centered health care solutions that improve access to quality, affordable care (but does absolutely nothing to assure access to insurance nor does it rein in health care costs)
  • Saves, strengthens, and secures Medicare for current and future retirees (read the Q&A carefully as to HOW they intend to do that)
  • Empowers states and local communities with the flexibility to innovate and make improvements to Medicaid, nutrition assistance, education and other programs
  • Strengthens the Disability Insurance program by putting an end to the “double-dipping” loophole that currently allows individuals to receive both unemployment insurance and disability insurance simultaneously
  • Puts an end to corporate welfare and dismantles the Department of Commerce [that would mean they intend to help balance the budget by issuing pink slips to 43,000+ employees and ending measuring services like: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), Economic Development Admin (EDA), Economics and Statistics Admin (ESA), International Trade Admin (ITA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), Natl Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Natl Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Natl Technical Information Service (NTIS), Operation Natl Telecom & Information Admin (NTIA), and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Additional Resources

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Posted in Budget-Federal, Congressional Activity, GOP, Health Care, House, Medicare, SNAP, Social Safety Net

The US Is Becoming a Terrifying Nation for Women

Much is at stake in a Supreme Court case over a Texas abortion law. The nation’s highest court heard oral arguments last week in Whole Woman’s Health v. John Hellerstedt. The case challenges restrictions placed on Texas abortion clinics under a law known as HB2. That law uses medical arguments to restrict women’s access to abortion in a state that has already decimated clinics.

Source: The US Is Becoming a Terrifying Nation for Women

Posted in Uncategorized

Latest Leak Confirms TTIP a ‘Serious Threat to Democracy as We Know It’

EU member states and the European Parliament will be “sidelined” in favor of big business and U.S. interests should the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) go through, according to a leaked document revealed Friday.

Source: Latest Leak Confirms TTIP a ‘Serious Threat to Democracy as We Know It’

Posted in Uncategorized

Bernie Finally Announced His Overly Ambitious Socialized Energy Plan

On Monday, Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced his highly aggressive energy plan to forcefully deal with climate change. You can read his published plan here.

“The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real,” said Sanders. “We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.”

 To do all that, Sanders’ plan would outright ban offshore drilling, ban Arctic drilling, block natural gas exports, stop attempts to lift a decades-old ban on crude oil exports, support states trying to ban natural gas fracking, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining. That’s a whole lot of current private sector jobs he’d be killing to bring his plan to fruition.  But it does appear that he intends to create 10 million public-sector(?) clean energy jobs that would replace them.  Many however, may not possess the requisite skills to fill those clean energy jobs, so I hope he’s planning to provide re-skilling education programs as part of his overall plan he’s going to impact the overall economy with a gigantic thud.

The major points of his plans are as follows:

  1. Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. (That’s nice, what about all the lobbyists who take precedence over actual constituents over in the House and the Senate?)
  2. End the huge subsidies that benefit fossil fuel companies.  (First, he’s going to need someone in the House and the Senate to propose that, then he’s going to need to get that out of committee and on the floor of each house for a vote, AND, he’s going to need 60 votes in the Senate or it’s going absolutely nowhere, because he cannot do that via executive order or fiat.)
  3. Create a national environmental and climate justice plan that recognizes the heightened public health risks faced by low-income and minority communities. (A plan that recognizes that?  How about some constructive action to correct not just the risks, but the actual health conditions resulting from continual exposure?)
  4. Bring climate deniers to justice so we can aggressively tackle climate change. (Would that be his fellow Senators and Representatives from the House … or the corporations that are their financial backers?)
  5. Fight to overturn Citizens United. (Ok? Not sure why that one is in his “Energy/Climate Change” proposal.  Seems like that should be in an “Election Reform” proposal.  At best it’s just going to show us which energy companies are buying whom.)
  6. Embrace a science-based standard for carbon pollution emissions reductions. (and decrease our carbon pollution emissions by at least 8o% from 1990s levels by 2050?  Does he fully comprehend how much pass-down costs are going to cripple our economy?  He’s already indicated he has plans to increase even middle class taxes.  Now he wants to dramatically increase the cost of absolutely anything and everything we buy as those costs to comply are passed down and marked up on every single commodity.)
  7. Put a price on carbon. (Well, that’s the only good thing in the plan so far given that we own 9kw worth of solar on the roof.  If he sets up a credit system, maybe there’s something in it for the investment we made.)
  8. Work toward a 100 percent clean energy system and create millions of jobs. (Would those be private or public sector jobs?  It’s already being intimated that Sanders is proposing the creation of 10 million “federal” jobs.  I can already hear right-wing heads exploding over the idea of a socialized energy workforce and the demise of the for profit energy industry.)
  9. Invest in clean, sustainable energy sources powered by the sun, wind and Earth’s heat. (I really do believe that truly is something our federal tax dollars should be used for instead of bankrolling BigOil profit margins, but it won’t go over well.  Didn’t Obama try that and get crucified by the GOP?  I can already hear and see in my mind’s eye, one commercial after another ad nauseum, raving about the failed Solyndra Solar development and how the Bernie wants to waste even more of our precious tax dollars on such frivilous endeavors.)
  10. Invest in advanced renewable fuels and keep our energy dollars at home. (I do believe we’re already doing that.  Net imports accounted for 27% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1985.)
  11. Invest in solar energy and put money back in the pockets of consumers. (Well I’m all for his support for net metering, but clearly he hasn’t been watching with the good Republicans of Nevada and other states around the nation have been doing to charge net-metered accounts higher “minimum cost to serve” bills and introducing schemes to credit net-metered accounts with only one-half a KW for every full KW taken by the utility.  Will he be putting an end to those predatory schemes?)
  12. Invest in making all American homes more energy efficient. (I’m sorry, but isn’t it the responsibility of home owners to invest in the maintenance and update of their homes?  I can see maybe making that process more affordable via reduced rate energy improvement loans and assistance programs.  But, we can’t do everything for everybody.)
  13. Build electric vehicle charging stations. (Wait a minute?  The Federal Government is going to do that? We’re going to take that out of the hands of the private sector? Is he also going to require all vehicles that burn fossil fuels to be off the road by some magic date?  That might work fine in urban centers, but it’s 2.5 hours at 75mph for us to be able to get to the nearest significant “urban center” and a single charge just isn’t gonna get us there without a significant stop for a serious re-charge … and then there’s the cost of that new electric car to add into the mix of things to come.)
  14. Build high-speed passenger and cargo rail. (Amtrack serves a limited number of cities across our nation, and the small rural town in which I reside does happen to be one of them, but many other small rural towns along its path are not so lucky. It seems to me that while this proposal may help those along the eastern and western seaboards and maybe some of the bigger urban centers across the nation, it will be at the expense of rural Americans for the benefit of big urban centers.)
  15. Convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. (Really?  Didn’t we just have one of those and didn’t leaders from around the globe just agree on some serious curtailment goals …. is didn’t the Republican Congress just tell President Obama to go take a flying leap? )
  16. Lead countries in cutting climate change.  (I think before we start telling everybody else what they should be doing, we better get our act together here at home!  When we have leaders in both houses of Congress not just denying climate change, but science altogether and claiming that Noah carried two of each type of Dinosaur and woolly mammoths on the ark along with two of every animal known to mankind today … maybe we need to concentrate on building a consensus at home.)
  17. Plan for peace to avoid international climate-fueled conflict. (What exactly does that mean? Do we all need to start watching “prepper” videos on YouTube and stalking our pantries?)

That definitely sets him apart from Hillary Clinton and assuredly proposes to take on BIG oil, but at what cost?

His staff did go all out to detail how his plan would work, complete with an interactive US map that pops out a target clean energy breakdown for each state. Here’s an animation of the pop-out for Nevada, as an example:

bloggif_56e0ce1b6673e

The 2050 Energy Costs slide claiming folks will save on average $98/person is a bit odd. Really?  Folks are going to have to buy solar, trash their current car and buy a new car (or give up your car altogether to use a bicycle or walk), all to achieve $98/person … in 2050(?).  Maybe I’m missing something here, but that’s a seriously steep selling curve even to the most avid climate change fanatics amongst us. And the “Money in your Pocket” for “Annual energy, health and climate cost savings/person” (again in 2050) section also makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I don’t come close to spending that much per year on energy, health or climate now and I’m reaching those elder years where one expects to start having to pay a bunch on health care issues.

Take some time and see if you can make some sense of where he wants to take our nation, how drastically quick he wants to get there and whether you think his approach is even do-able given our currently ideologically split nation.  If Bernie’s our party’s nominee, we’re all signing on “revolutionary” ideas to remake our nation.

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Posted in Biofuels, Energy, Energy-Big Oil, Geo-Thermal, Renewables, Solar

What We Know About The Judges Obama Is Reportedly Vetting For The Supreme Court

After an evening meeting, President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade from the Oval Office to the White House Residence in Washington, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, carrying a binder containing information on possible Supreme Court nominees. Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

— by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress

According to the Washington Post, the White House is considering six candidates for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia: federal appeals court judges Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly, Merrick Garland, Paul Watford, and Patricia Millett, along with district judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan

Judge Sri Srinivasan offers the conventional mix of youth, experience, and credentials that presidents often look for when selecting a Supreme Court nominee. A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a court that is widely considered the second most powerful in the nation, Srinivasan was confirmed to this job by a 97-0 vote. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, served as the principal deputy to Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and argued more than two dozens cases in the Supreme Court before his own elevation to the bench.

Srinivasan’s record during his just under three years as a judge suggests that his approach to the law is similar to other mainline Democratic appointees. Among other things, Srinivasan authored an opinion reinstating minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers after those protections were cut off by a trial judge’s order. And he was one of three judges on a panel that refused to halt the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, it’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change. (Shortly before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc halted this effort on their own, over the dissent of all four of the Court’s liberals.)

The case challenging the Clean Power Plan remains ongoing, however, and it is still pending before the panel that includes Judge Srinivasan. Thus, nominating Srinivasan presents some risk for the president because it could lead to a different judge being swapped in to hear this case. Should Srinivasan be confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would also need to recuse from the case because he already ruled on the request to temporarily halt the Plan as a circuit judge. Some of the White House’s liberal allies have also expressed concerns about Srinivasan’s record prior to becoming a judge; his past clients include ExxonMobil and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

Judge Jane Kelly

Judge Jane Kelly

Judge Jane Kelly

By the ultra-elite standards of the very top echelons of the legal profession, Judge Jane Kelly does not have the same eye-popping credentials as Srinivasan. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Kelly clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, but never for a Supreme Court justice. While Srinivasan made a name for himself in DC as one of the nation’s top Supreme Court litigators, Kelly toiled in relative obscurity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dismissing Kelly’s credentials because they do not match up with Srinivasan’s, however, is a bit like labeling Wonder Woman a weakling because she does not pack quite as much of a punch as Superman. Elite law firms currently offer a signing bonus of up to $75,000 for recent law graduates fresh out of a federal circuit clerkship, and that’s in addition to a starting salary in the mid-to-high $100,000s. So Kelly could have enjoyed a very lavish life in a prestigious legal practice.

She turned this life down to become a public defender, a job she held until her appointment to the Eighth Circuit in 2013. She continued to do that job even after she was attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead while jogging in 2004. “After having that happen to her,” former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) later said about Kelly, “she went right back to work sticking up for the constitutional rights of people accused by the federal government. To me, that was a mark of real character and sort of inner strength and resolve that something like that was not going to make her throw in the towel.”

A Kelly nomination could also embarrass Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has thus far refused to consider anyone that President Obama names to fill Scalia’s seat. Grassley praised her nomination to the Eighth Circuit, quoting a friend of his on the federal bench who praised her “exceptionally keen intellect” and concluded that “she will be a welcomed addition to the Court if confirmed.” If Kelly is the nominee, expect videos like this one, where Grassley urges his colleagues to confirm her, to become a stable of cable news coverage of the nomination:

http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4580805

Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit is the sort of nominee that Obama and Senate Republicans might agree to elevate to the Supreme Court as a compromise, if compromise is actually possible with the current Senate majority. Garland, who President Clinton appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997, is far and away the oldest candidate among the four the White House is reportedly vetting — he’s 63. In nearly two decades on the bench, Garland has also built a fairly centrist record.

Like the much younger Srinivasan, Garland’s resume is laden with the kind of credentials that make mere mortal attorneys droll with envy — including a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and a senior Justice Department job prior to Garland’s elevation to the bench. On most issues, moreover, is is likely that Garland would side with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc in divided cases.

Nevertheless, there are a few areas where his instincts appear more conservative. In 2003, Garland joined an opinion holding that the federal judiciary lacks the authority, “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation, a military base outside the sovereignty of the United States,” effectively prohibiting Guantanamo Bay detainees from seeking relief in civilian courts. The Supreme Court reversed this decision a little over a year later in Rasul v. Bush. (Though, it is worth noting that legal experts disagree about whether the result Garland supported was compelled by then-existing precedents.)

Garland also appears to have relatively conservative instincts in criminal justice cases. According to a 2010 examination of Garland’s decision by SCOTUSBlog’s Thomas Goldstein, “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” Goldstein “identified only eight such published rulings,” as well as an additional seven where “he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand,” during the 13 years Garland had then spent as a federal judge.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is the only federal trial judge among the six mentioned by the Washington Post. At 45, she is also the youngest, Jackson’s resume includes several years of private practice, service on the United States Sentencing Commission, and work as a public defender. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.Jackson’s current status as a trial judge could prove to be both a blessing and a curse if she is Obama’s nominee. On the one hand, appellate judgeships are considered to be more prestigious than trial judgeships. The Supreme Court is also an appellate court, so a judge with experience at the appellate level is likely to be more used to the kind of work that goes into being a justice. That said, nearly all of the cases heard by the Supreme Court began in trial courts, and they can often turn upon procedural motions, fact-finding and other matters that occurred at the trial level. Currently, the only sitting justice with experience as a trial judge is Justice Sonia Sotomayor, so Jackson would bring an underrepresented perspective to the nation’s highest Court.

According to the Washington Post, the White House is focusing on potential nominees “with scant dis­cern­ible ideology and limited judicial records as part of a strategy to surmount fierce Republican opposition.” Jackson, however, does have some opinions that are likely to fuel Republican opposition if she is nominated. In Rothe Development v. Department of Defense, Jackson rejected a challenge to a program that provides “technological, financial, and practical assistance, as well as support through preferential awards of government contracts” to companies that are designated as “small disadvantaged businesses.” One of the criteria used to determine if a business qualifies for this designation is whether a majority owner of the business belongs to a racial minority group. Though Jackson’s opinion upholding this limited consideration of race in government contracting closely tracks a 2012 decision by another judge of her court, which rejected a “nearly identical” challenge, it is likely that Rothe Development will play a starring role in conservative attack ads should Jackson be the nominee.

Additionally, Jackson denied a request by the website Gawker that tried to “force former Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines to explain why he had work-related emails in a private account.” Although her decision merely concluded that the request was “premature,” and not that it could not succeed at a later date, it is unlikely that conservative attack groups will dwell on that nuance if Jackson is the nominee.

Judge Paul Watford

Judge Paul Watford

Judge Paul Watford

ThinkProgress previously described Judge Paul Watford as a “conventional superqualified nominee.” A former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Watford joined the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2012, after spending a few years as a federal prosecutor and then becoming a partner in a large law firm.Watford, however, had a somewhat more rocky confirmation process than Srinivasan and Kelly — a fact that may stem from Watford being one of only a handful of judicial nominees President Obama named in his first term who fit the conventional profile for a future Supreme Court justice. Grassley, in particular, objected to a few amicus briefs Watford wrote while still in private practice, including a brief opposing Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, and another one filed on behalf of groups opposed to Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol. Judge Watford was eventually confirmed by a 61-34 vote.

Since becoming a judge, Watford authored three opinions in cases that were later reviewed by the Supreme Court. The justices agreed with Watford about the correct result in all three — including a case where the Supreme Court agreed with Watford’s decision to strike down a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to share guest records with police even if the police do not have a warrant.

Judge Patricia Millett

Judge Patricia Millett

Judge Patricia Millett

Like Srinivasan, Judge Patricia Millett was among the nation’s top Supreme Court advocates prior to her appointment to the DC Circuit — arguing 32 cases during her time as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office and later in private practice. Prior to becoming a judge, she alsoserved on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization in Washington, DC. During her confirmation to the DC Circuit, one of the most active lobbying groups working on her behalf was a network of lawyers who are also military spouses. Millett’s husband served in the Navy, and they met at a church event while he was stationed at the Pentagon and were later married in the same church.Under normal circumstances, a Millett nomination would be a considerable olive branch extended toward Senate Republicans. Among other things, Millett once defended the conservative Roberts Court’s record in business cases during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that the justices “show[ed] a fair amount of balance in the business area” during a previous term. In just over two years on the DC Circuit, she’s authored just over two dozen majority opinions, none of which are particularly ideological

(The president’s opponents may complain about an opinion rejecting a challenge to various aspects of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation, but that lawsuit received little backing from interest groups that have otherwise been eager to support suits against Obamacare that have even a small chance of prevailing. Judge Millett’s opinion in that case was also joined by a conservative George H.W. Bush appointee.)

Millett, however, was also the very first judge confirmed after Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow lower court nominations to be confirmed by a simple majority vote. This maneuver, which effectively shut down Senate Republican efforts to maintain ideological control over the nation’s second most powerful court, remains a sore spot among Senate Republicans. If Millett is the nominee, it is likely that many senators will take their frustrations with this rules change out on the judge.


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. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

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Posted in Congressional Activity, Judiciary/AttyGnrl, Nominations, SCOTUS, Senate
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