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and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.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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WHY the 2014 Election is Extremely Important

If Republicans win control of the Senate this November, and the Tea Party increases its power in Congress, they will do absolutely everything within their power to impeach President Obama.

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart is sounding the alarm — and I agree with him:

“I’ve said this before and I’ll keep repeating it until the message sinks in for Democrats inclined to sit out the midterms: Obama is not on the ballot in November, but Obama is on the ballot in November. Democrats have it in their power to keep the Senate and save the Obama presidency from the all-but-certain asterisk of impeachment.”

If there is even a 10% chance that Jonathan Capehart is right, we have to do everything in our power to stop the possibility that the GOP will impeach the president — a media circus that would have disastrous policy consequences for what would have been the final two years of the Obama Administration.

The Republicans are serious.  In 2013 Senator Ted Cruz was asked why Republicans hadn’t impeached the president. His answer was that they did not yet control the Senate. Senator Tom Coburn has said he is “watching whether the president was committing impeachable offenses,” and Senator Lindsay Graham said impeachment was a possibility over the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Really? Over the return of a US Soldier who was a prisoner of war? Now half-term Sarah Palin is calling for the president to be impeached over the humanitarian crisis at the border, arguing that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is.”

So, how would that 2-step procedure for Impeachment work? First, the House of Representatives would need to pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the formal allegation or allegations. Upon passage, the defendant would be considered “impeached,” but NOT out of office. Second, the Senate would then need to “try” the accused. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings (that would be Chief Partisan Roberts). To convict the accused, a two-thirds majority of the senators present is required. Conviction removes the defendant from office. The Senate could also vote to further punish the individual by barring him from holding future federal office, elected or appointed and to disqualify him from receiving certain emoluments of his prior office (such as a pension or secret service protection).  If there is no charge for which a two-thirds majority of the senators present vote “guilty”, the defendant is acquitted and no punishment is imposed.

If the Republicans win control of the Senate in November, even if they do NOT have a solid super-majority, and if Republican membership within the House remains in control of the Republicans, they will proceed with at attempt to impeach not just President Obama, but most likely Vice President Biden as well.  Their logic will be that he aided and abetted the President in whatever ridiculous “high crimes or misdemeanors” they manage to dream up.

Can you imagine President John Boehner and Vice President Mitch McConnell as the leaders of   our nation?  It would be the end of our nation and everything we’ve worked for throughout our lives.  Sitting this election out is the equivalent of voting for every Republican on the ballot.  We just CANNOT do that.   Not only can we NOT sit this one out, we need to engage others to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.  We cannot afford to provide Republican candidates with seats of power through which they can achieve name recognition which can be used to fool uneducated members of the electorate into voting for them just because their name is better known (even though their deeds aren’t).

Kristen Spees
Kristen Spees

In Nevada, we can’t do anything about Republican membership in the Senate, be we can improve Democratic membership in the House.  Kristen Spees is running against Republican incumbent Mark Amodei.  We need to engage in every way possible to help Kristen win the race in CD2.  It’s up to us to help our friends and neighbors understand how Mr. Amodei’s attrocious voting record impacts them and how that record predicts how his votes could personally harm them should Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate — and then engineer an impeachment coup to usurp the Presidency and Vice Presidency.  Gone will be many of the programs millions of Americans dependent upon.  Gone will be our national parks and heritage, sold off to the Corporations and Billionaires to pillage.  Gone will be any environmental safeguards to ensure safe drinking water, clean air and the like.

Erin Bilbray
Erin Bilbray

Similarly, Erin Bilbray (Open Secrets) is running against Joe Heck in CD3 which encompasses the southern outreaches of Clark County.  Rural and Urban Democrats throughout CD3 need to engage with both Democrats and independent voters across the district, get folks registered and energize  them to make it to the polls this November to vote for Erin.  Just as those of us in CD2 need to unseat Mark Amodei, those in CD3 need to unseat Joe Heck.  CD3 is a competitive district for Democrats.  We just need to get folks off their couches and out to the polls to vote for our candidate. Make your commitment now, to do just that.

Engage and pay attention.  This could be the election that ends what was our great nation.