Tag Archives: Congress

The Shutdown Price Tag

English: Standard & Poor's Headquarters in Low...

English: Standard & Poor’s Headquarters in Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York (55 Water Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The crisis is over, but the damage is done.

Standard & Poor’s estimates that when you add the costs of the shutdown – lost wages, productivity, the ripple effects throughout the economy – the sixteen-day shutdown took about $24 billion from our economy.

That works out to a $1.5 billion price tag per day. And for what?

Tea Party Republicans in Congress held our economy hostage. While they failed to extort concessions on their radical demands, they succeeded in dealing our recovering economy an agonizing blow.

We cannot afford to wind up here again in January or February.

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Tell Congress: Shutting Down the Government Is Not an Option

Shut Down Government

Shut Down Government (Photo credit: KAZVorpal)

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Congress will pass a budget by the end of this month or let the government shut down.

Here’s what a shutdown would mean:

Nearly all federal programs and the people they work for would suffer. We’re talking delayed military pay and veterans’ benefits. Shutting down Head Start centers, and Meals on Wheels programs. Delayed applications for new Social Security enrollments, and loans for students and small businesses.

One thing is clear: Shutting down the government will hurt the American people.

When some members of Congress talk about a government shutdown, they frame it as a practical bargaining chip.

A government shutdown will shutter crucial services the American people depend on and wreak havoc with our economy.

President Obama has put forth a smart plan for the budget, and he’s said he’s willing to hear new ideas from people on both sides of the aisle. The budget Congress passes needs to continue to grow the economy from the middle out.

Our elected officials shouldn’t use the economy, the budget, or the threat of taking away health care from millions of Americans to score political points. Add your name now, and tell Congress to avoid a government shutdown and pass a smart budget: http://my.barackobama.com/Pass-a-Budget

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Congress Comes Together to End Sexual Slavery of Children

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month, the FBI announced that it had rescued more than 100 sexually exploited children in Operation Cross Country and arrested 150 people involved in their exploitation. A bill introduced last week in Congress, the End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013goes a step further, calling for “patrons” who seek sex with children to be federally prosecuted.

The bill is an important step in protecting children by recognizing that those who “obtain, patronize, or solicit” prostituted children are guilty of the crime of human trafficking.

“Soliciting or obtaining sex with minors, paying to have sex with a child, is a crime — period, end of story. This is a monumentally important bill that will do more to curb this terrible crime of [sexual] slavery in the 21st Century,” said Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a sponsor of the bill.

The new bill amends the existing Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Under the TVPA,”the guy that brings those girls throughout the United States” is the one who is prosecuted, as Republican Congressman Ted Poe (a former state district judge from Humble, Texassaid, but “the consumer, the buyer, is not prosecuted on the federal level.” The new bill will mean that “patrons” will also face federal prosecution.

The End Sex Trafficking Act will draw on existing resources, including federal law enforcement, to prosecute those who profit from and solicit sex from children.

Sex trafficked children are crime victims who will need the help of social services. To this end, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minnesota) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) have introduced H.R. 2744, the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013. This bill would

amend federal law to require that states’ programs relating to child abuse and neglect include provisions and procedures to identify and assess all reports involving child victims of sex trafficking and to train child protective services workers about identifying and providing comprehensive services to exploited children.

The End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013 can, as Poe says, help to end “modern-day slavery” by prosecuting those actually guilty of crimes, not minors who are the victims of criminal activity and in need of rehabilitative care and support.

The bill has broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass both houses of Congress unanimously. More than eighty groups across the country have indicated their support for a law that cannot be passed too soon.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/soliciting-sex-with-children-will-now-be-a-federal-offense.html#ixzz2dHzvg1py

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Call on Congress to Take Action to Avoid School Shootings

English: Columbine High School in Columbine, C...

English: Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daniel was a smart, quiet kid. He’d become a straight-A student, and he was a new member of the debate team.

On April 20th, 1999, the bright 15-year-old was killed by two teenagers with guns in the library of Columbine High School. He was one of twelve kids who lost their lives for no reason.

These tragedies keep happening, and Congress has failed to take any action to stop them, even though nine in ten Americans have agreed that expanding background checks would help close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people and prevent future violence.

Tell Congress to act: http://my.barackobama.com/Do-One-Thing-for-Gun-Violence-Prevention

 

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Votes to “Repeal” Health Care Law Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

Friday marked the fortieth (40th!) time the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I spoke with a friend about the vote yesterday.

“I wonder,” he said, “what these votes are costing taxpayers.”

Strap yourselves in, readers; you’re about to learn what these votes headed by “fiscal conservatives” are costing the American people.

Last year, CBS News calculated that the first thirty-three votes to repeal the ACA took eighty hours of floor time at the House or about two full work weeks. According to the Congressional Research Service, it costs about $24 million to run the House for a week, so it cost about $48 million for just the first thirty-three votes. (I can’t believe I said “just the first thirty-three votes.” This is ridiculous.) That translates to about $1.45 million per vote.

Based on that number, it has cost the American taxpayer a total of $58 million for the Republicans to make their symbolic votes against the ACA.

In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that repeal of the bill would add $109 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

Via CBS Miami.

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SCOTUS Rejects Surveillance Case

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit challenging a federal law that gave the government a broader ability to eavesdrop on international communications.

In a 5-to-4 ruling split along ideological lines, the Court shielded a government anti-terrorism program from facing a Constitutional challenge.

The law is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or FISA.  Congress amended FISA in 2008, giving the National Security Agency broader authority to monitor emails and phone calls of any U.S. citizens, so long as they are suspected of communicating with anyone located outside the United States.  The amended provision was set to expire at the end of last year, but Congress reauthorized the bill for another five years.

In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates challenged the constitutionality of the law on the grounds that they might be subject to wiretapping.  Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, held that such fear was too speculative, so they lacked standing to sue.

“They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms,” Justice Alito wrote.  The plaintiffs claimed that the reason they had not been harmed yet was because they had taken steps to avoid the surveillance (such as traveling to meet clients in person and not sending emails or talking on the phone).

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the Court’s dissenting opinion.  He agreed with the plaintiffs that, if they had not shown harm already, it was only a matter of time. “Indeed, it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen,” Justice Breyer wrote.

To the dissent, the fact the plaintiffs had to alter their work practices to avoid having confidential calls overheard indicated some harm already. “In my view, this harm is not ‘speculative,’” Breyer added.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Urge Washington to Protect LGBT Employees

U.S. LGBT employment discrimination law. Sexua...

U.S. LGBT employment discrimination law (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In twenty-nine states, you can be fired for being gay. You can be fired in thirty-four states for being transgender.

One member of Congress, Steve King (R-IA), recently suggested a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” style policy, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people stay closeted at work, so their bosses “won’t know who to discriminate against.”

In the face of offensive right-wing rhetoric like this, there are two things we can push for: the White House must make sure federal contractors aren’t discriminating, and the Senate must hold hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Tell our leaders in Washington there can be no excuses for inaction on vital workplace protections. Now is the time for a full-fledged federal response.

The President can expand the reach of non-discrimination policies by telling all companies that do business with the federal government that they can’t discriminate against LGBT employees. Such an order would bring these companies’ policies in line with the best practices of major American businesses.

We also need to break the logjam on Capitol Hill that has left the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) languishing. The bill, which has the support of a supermajority of Americans and the Administration, affirms the idea that employees should be judged on performance, not personal characteristics. Nothing should matter at work except how you do your job.

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Supreme Court Has Record Amicus Briefs in Health Law Case

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Supreme Court has three days this week scheduled to hear the arguments about President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care law.

Everyone wants a say in the arguments.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has helped lead opposition to the law, has been hosting moot court sessions to prepare lawyers involved in the case. Advocates on all sides of the issues are planning rallies. Many groups, like the American Constitution Society, are setting up war rooms and daily briefings on the Supreme Court steps.

A record 136 organizations  have filed amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs to urge the court to either strike down or uphold the law. The groups filing amicus briefs include the usual heavy hitters like the AARP and obscure groups that have rarely, if ever, been involved in a Supreme Court case.

Economists are wading into the debate with briefs that offer clashing views of the benefits and harms that they believe the health care law brings.

Catholic and anti-abortion groups are opposing it because of concerns about federal financing for abortion services.

Massachusetts, which approved a similar insurance model under Governor Mitt Romney, argues in its amicus brief that its experience “confirms that Congress had a rational basis” to impose minimum insurance requirements.

Via The New York Times.

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Ohio Farmer’s Case at Center of Health Care Battle

If the Obama administration persuades the Supreme Court to uphold its health care law, it will be thanks to a seventy-year-old precedent involving an Ohio farmer.

Roscoe Filburn sued to overturn a 1938 federal law that said how much wheat he could grow on his farm and made him pay a penalty for every extra bushel.

The 1942 decision against him, Wickard v. Filburn, is the basis for the Supreme Court’s modern understanding of the scope of federal power. It is the contested ground on which the health care case has been fought in the lower courts, and it is likely to be crucial to the votes of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, who are widely seen as open to persuasion by either side.

Supporters and opponents of the health care law say the decision helps their side.

To hear the Obama administration tell it, the Filburn decision illustrates how much leeway the federal government has under the Constitution’s commerce clause to regulate the choices people make in matters affecting the economy. If the government can make farmers choose between growing crops and paying a penalty, it can tell people that they must get health insurance or pay a penalty.

Opponents of the law say the case sets the outer limit of federal power, one the health care law exceeds. It is one thing to encourage farmers to buy wheat by punishing them for growing their own. It is another to require people to buy insurance or face a penalty, as the health care law does.

Mr. Filburn argued, as do opponents of the health care overhaul, that he was challenging a law that was not authorized by the Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate commerce “among the several states.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling against him was unanimous.

“Even if appellee’s activity be local,” Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote, “and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.”

The decisions of millions of people to go without health insurance have a significant effect on the national economy by raising other people’s rates and forcing hospitals to pay for the emergency care of those who cannot afford it.

The administration has insisted that the overhaul law is a modest assertion of federal power in comparison to the law Mr. Filburn challenged. “The constitutional foundation for Congress’s action is considerably stronger” for the health care law than for the law that the Supreme Court endorsed in 1942, the administration said in a brief.

Opponents of the law take the opposite view. It is true that the federal government may “regulate bootleggers because of their aggregate harm to the interstate liquor market,” Mr. Carvin wrote in a brief, but the government “may not conscript teetotalers merely because conditions in the liquor market would be improved if more people imbibed.”

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“Today Show” Airs Black Market Gun Expose

An airman with the 506th Expeditionary Civil E...

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NBC’s Today Show aired a seven-minute exposé of the online black market for guns. This investigation was inspired by a recent New York City undercover probe of illegal online sales.

Investigators met a gun seller and bought a military-grade, 50-caliber sniper rifle powerful enough to take down a helicopter, with no background check and no questions asked.

We can no longer allow guns to get into the hands of dangerous people without a simple, instant background check. It’s time to demand answers.

Watch NBC’s exposé of the black market for deadly guns and sign the Fix Gun Checks petition to demand answers of Congress.

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