Tag Archives: US Senate

Are Tiger and Gate Crashers the Only News?

Forgive me, I was out of town the past few days, so I don’t know if there was a breakthrough on healthcare reform, or whether the House, Senate, or White House has come up with a magic bullet for the unacceptably high unemployment rate.

I do know retailers were cautiously optimistic about “Black Friday”. I went to a shopping mall out of town not to buy anything, but to see a movie with my daughter. There were plenty of people there, but checkout lines didn’t seem long, and lots of folks were leaving without being weighted down with packages.

What I did hear and see a lot about were two stories. Tiger Woods, Emperor of  All Golf , crached his SUV early Friday morning just outside his house. Apparently, it was early enough to cause all manner of speculation about the state of his marriage, the state of his mind (he was reportedly unconscious), and whether a tabloid report about his fooling around is true. Yawn!

Tiger’s right. He’s boring, and so is the frenzy that’s surrounding this incident. He ought to know better than to turn away state troopers trying to investigate the crash more than once. All that does is feed the media speculation. You and the missus ought to talk to them, release a statement, and be done with it already.

The other story that won’t go away is the one about the couple that crashed the White House state dinner Tuesday night. If  Michaele and  Tareq Salahi werre looking for 15 minutes of fame, they got five days. This one is amazing on several levels. Why would two people think they had the smarts and the guts to get past what most folks think is tough security at the White House?

What would they have done if they’d been turned away, just head to a fancy Georgetown restaurant? Of course, just like that “Balloon Boy” family, reports say the wife wanted to be on a reality television show. Was this supposed to be her audition?

The Salahis are reportedly talking to the Secret Service, maybe trying to avoid a possible criminal rap for their night on the town. Government security in general ought to be hanging their heads in shame, because it means security checkpoints literally mean nothing. All that stuff they make you do at the airport? Theater! Building security, where they make you show a couple of forms of ID? Meaningless!

And Sunday, here were two US Senators discussing the incident, and saying (with appropriate seriousness), that criminal charges are in order. Do I smell an investigation in the Upper House?

But hey, you tell me. Did anything else go on over this past weekend? (I do know about the awful murders of four cops in Washington state. Here’s hoping they nail the guy).

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Does the Senate Have the Guts to Pass Healthcare Reform?

This past weekend’s vote to begin debate in the upper House was heartening, but anyone who follows politics knows it’s the first skirmish in a long battle. Credit ought to be given to Majority Leader Harry Reid for having the guts to see the first step through.

I have been critical of his leadership in the past, but I take it all back (can you do that in one post?). Harry Reid came through like a champ, not like some of his colleagues, and I’m not talking about Republicans. You don’t expect them to have any heart when it comes to providing quality affordable care to millions of Americans for whom that’s just a pipe dream now.

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I’m talking about  a few Senate Democrats, and that independent who dares to caucus with them. Joe Lieberman should have been tossed out on his ear the day he addressd the Republican National Convention on behalf of John McCain. Now he couldn’t wait until the last echoes of Saturday’s vote to allow debate to go on tv and try to eviscerate the public option. “If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor,” says the Senator from Connecticut. Ben Nelson of Nebraska isn’t much better.

What they’re saying is the next step, after a lot of contentious debate, may be for opponents of the bill to filibuster.  At that point, the only recourse may be the complex and misunderstood procress of reconciliation. Trust me, it’s not nearly as benign as it sounds. Suffice to say that’s how Bush got his two tax cuts through, but would it work for healthcare reform?

Reconciliation is about the only way you can get a bill through the Senate without the 60 votes necessary to bring it to the floor. That is, bypassing the usual obstructive devices, like the filibuster. The jury is still out of whether the health bill fits the criteria necessary to be eligible for reconciliation. Absent that, Harry Reid will have to find a couple of Republicans who will go along with the overwhelming majority of Democrats to get this thing done.

This is usually the cue for political junkies to look to the two senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Snowe, however, has as big a problem with the public option as Lieberman does. Make no mistake. A bill without a public option isn’t acceptable, nor should it be to President Obama (we’ll see).

So you tell me. Does this Senate have the guts to pass a healthcare reform bill with a public option?

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How Would You Put Americans Back to Work?

First and foremost, pay no attention to the gyrations of the stock market. The nation is still hurting, and a big reason is that not enough people have been able to find work. Consider this. In December of 2007, just two years ago, there were 1.7 applicants for every available job. Last month, that number jumped to 6.1.

The House is currently trying to figure out what to do about this. Those people who elected Barack Obama and gave both the House and Senate Democratic majorities are getting antsy. That’s not a good place to be with midterm elections on the horizon. But what to do?

There are a number of proposals on the table. Some lawmakers want to see a second stimulus enacted. Trouble is, no one, least of all the White House, sems to know how many jobs were really created or maintained from the last one. You can probably count a second stimulus as DOA, at least for now.

There are calls for some type of incentive for employers to hire new people. They range from a tax credit, to government funding of health benefits, to a straight payment of up to $3000 to any employer who hires new workers. Congress backed away from these incentives when they were brought up before because they worried employers would game the system (who, those capiatins of free enterprise? Never!!!).

Still others want to see some form of government make woprk program similar to the WPA or CCC during the Great Depression. Cost would be a big impediment here. Moderate Democrats would have the same objections they had to healthcare reform. And the Republicans? Suffice to say that anything that they see as hurting President Obama, like high unemployment, is a good thing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution, even in the face of mounting pressure to get something done. To pay for jobs creation, some have argued for using unspent financial bailout money, while others say new fees on securities transactions would make Wall St. foot at least part of the bill.

While out and out jobs creation sounds wonderful, Democrats in both houses of Congress have to be mindful of the political minefield any proposal would have to navigate. So as the House leadership takes its time in coming up with a plan, they must also balance fiscal prudence with an urgent need to act. Fewer and fewer Americans are buying the notion of a recovery, either now or in the near future.

So what would you do to put the unemployed back to work?

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