The Importance of Senate Fili-Bluster
“Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be.” –John Adams
It may seem like an opaque argument over procedural rules, but it will have lasting consequences for the nation. We refer to the Senate fight over the filibuster of presidential nominees. Democrats and Republicans reached a “compromise” to keep Democrats from using the “nuclear option” of changing the rules to prevent filibusters, but they basically got everything they wanted and Republicans got nothing.
The fight centered on a number of Barack Obama’s executive branch nominees – Republicans were blocking votes, just as then-minority Democrats did to the nominees of George W. Bush. To be sure, Republicans were just as angry with Democrat filibusters then as Democrats are incensed now. But let’s look back at what Democrats once said.
In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama warned, “Everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”
Also in 2005, Harry Reid offered this wisdom: “The filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.” He called Republican threats to change the rules a “partisan political grab” and worse, “un-American.”
So much for that.
The deal struck this week means that Democrats won’t go nuclear but neither will Republicans filibuster Obama’s nominees. In return, Democrats took two National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nominees off the table, to be replaced by two other pro-union ones and two GOP nominees. The five-member NLRB has made controversial rules with three “recess” appointments that Obama made when the Senate wasn’t actually in recess. Three courts struck down those nominations and their rule-making, as the Fourth Circuit Court this week joined the Third Circuit and the DC Circuit courts. The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall. Regardless, the NLRB will remain firmly in the pocket of Big Labor.
The Senate deal also enabled confirmation of Labor nominee Thomas Perez, one of seven nominees on which Republicans agreed to allow a vote. We previously recounted Perez’s contempt for Rule of Law and his penchant for using supposed racial discrimination to justify different racial discrimination. Now he’ll head up a Labor Department overseeing persistently high unemployment, especially among blacks.
Richard Cordray, nominated to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by the Dodd-Frank financial legislation of 2010, was also confirmed after the deal. Cordray first received a “recess” appointment nearly two years ago. One problem with the CFPB is that it will function as sort of an EPA-like agency in the financial sector, only with even less accountability.
Speaking of the EPA, Gina McCarthy was confirmed Thursday to head that department, and she will inherit the economy-crushing mantel of former chief Lisa Jackson. Under McCarthy, we don’t expect the EPA to be any less of a weight around the necks of American business.
As an aside, Democrats did not threaten to end the filibuster on judicial nominees. That’s at least in part because the pro-abortion lobby insisted on retaining the filibuster for the day when Democrats are again the minority party with a Republican president. Any judicial nominee who questions Roe v. Wade could then be torched.
While it’s entertaining to watch both sides take up the arguments their opponents used eight years ago, the bottom line is this: Elections have consequences. When Obama won a second term, it meant he could continue his work to fundamentally transform this nation.
Government and Politics
Hope ‘n’ Change: Even the Unions Get It Now
ObamaCare is becoming increasingly difficult for the White House to defend, particularly to groups that initially supported it. This week a troika of union leaders, representing Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and Unite Here, wrote an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sharing union concerns for the law’s impact on their members. The union leaders complained that the law will hurt job creation and encourage employers to keep work hours under 30 hours per week, leading to reduced benefits. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The White House claims they have data that proves this is not the case, but they must be relying on something other than the current unemployment rate – maybe something like medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services released a propaganda video claiming that ObamaCare is “on schedule” despite the recent postponement of the employer mandate and individual income verification requirements. Even state exchanges might now be delayed. HHS stubbornly claims, however, that its success includes a “new, simpler health insurance application” replacing the unworkable one they created previously; a web portal that doesn’t yet exist for navigating a federal exchange not yet set up; and the distribution of $150 million in grants. Government grants often mean simply pushing money out the door without accountability or oversight, and that’s something the government always does on schedule.
In related news, California is just one state facing big problems with the October startup of its state-run exchange. Hastily trained counselors with poor oversight and inadequate vetting will be let loose on five million people looking to sign up for the untested system. Insurance Commissioner David Jones said succinctly, “We can have a real disaster on our hands.”
Finally, the seemingly endless string of negative developments surrounding ObamaCare has the GOP smelling blood in the water, but House and Senate Republicans are torn on a strategy to undo the law. The House this week voted to delay not only the employer mandate, legalizing what Obama did by illegal executive fiat during the Fourth of July holiday, but also the individual mandate, which Barack Obama says with some degree of chutzpah will “undermine key elements” of the law.
Senate Republicans, however, aren’t keen on these votes because the bills will never reach the Senate floor or survive the president’s assured veto. There’s little stomach on the House side for a Senate proposal to defund ObamaCare and risk a government shutdown, a tactic for which Republicans always take a beating. One area of potential agreement is denying authority for issuing insurance subsidies until an effective income verification system is enacted. It’s not repeal, but it’s part of a death-by-a-thousand cuts strategy more suitable to the task at hand.
The BIG Lie
“The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act was also enacted. … The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. … But history shows that upholding our founding principles demands continuous work toward a more perfect union. … And it requires the kind of work that the NAACP has done for more than a century to move us forward. You showed it in the fight against lynching and the fight for desegregation. You showed it by ensuring inalienable rights are secured in the courtroom and at the ballot box. And you showed it by supporting a health law 100 years in the making.” –Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in remarks to the NAACP
Aside from being completely irrelevant to the health care debate, Sebelius' revisionist history neglects that it was largely opposition from Democrats that made the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights legislation difficult to pass.
From the Left: IRS Investigation Continues
New testimony in the IRS investigation this week revealed that Lois “Fifth Amendment” Lerner directed IRS employees to steer so-called Tea Party tax-exempt applications through a multi-layered examination process that went all the way up to the IRS chief counsel’s office. William Wilkins, the chief counsel and one of only two Obama political appointees to the IRS, sought information including 2010 election activities and significantly slowed down the entire approval process. Again, this wasn’t low-level workers in Cincinnati; the political targeting went quite high up in the IRS. “That is a bombshell,” observed columnist Peggy Noonan. “And Democrats know it. Which is why they are so desperate to make the investigation go away.”
Furthermore, Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) this week that the IRS improperly probed political donors and candidates on at least four separate occasions going back to 2006. The Department of Justice has so far declined to open a criminal investigation into the matter. Perhaps it’s time to assign an independent prosecutor.
Noonan concludes, “This is the moment things go forward or stall. Republicans need to find out how high the scandal went and why, exactly, it went there. To do that they’ll have to up their game.”
Detroit Goes Bankrupt
In 2012, Barack Obama bragged about his work to “save” the auto industry, but his words have a different ring now: “We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt.” Democrats also told us if we voted for Mitt Romney, Detroit would go bankrupt. They were right.
On Thursday, Motown became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. Detroit has total liabilities of $18.5 billion, which is largely attributable to its lavish pension system for government employees. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert, as emergency manager earlier this year. Orr tried to negotiate restructuring Detroit’s enormous obligations, but it was too little too late. For example, despite being slated to receive just 10 percent of what they were promised, 20,000 city pensioners are due some $3 billion. Responding to news of the bankruptcy, one city employee lamented that he was “planning on retiring in October, but now I’m not sure.” He’s only 50 years old, which no doubt exemplifies the problem. And not that city services do much good. In a city with the highest violent crime rate in the nation, police response time averages 58 minutes.
According to the Associated Press, Detroit’s financial ruin is “the result of a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.” Indeed, the population has fallen over the years from nearly two million to just 700,000, but we thought Obama saved the auto industry. Far more important, however, is the fact that Democrats – and government unions – have been in the driver’s seat in the Motor City for over 50 years. Anyone doubting a connection hasn’t been paying attention.
Meanwhile, the national debt in Obama’s America stands at nearly $17 trillion, and bankruptcy isn’t exactly an option.
Regulatory Commissars: Manual-Shifting the Truth
In the age of rising pump prices, there are those who select their new cars with maximum fuel economy in mind. So it’s disconcerting to those consumers to discover that Consumer Reports, the well-known arbiter of automotive quality, tested over 300 different models in real-world conditions and found that many of them missed the fuel economy mark given by the EPA – some by as much as 15 percent.
The cars that fell short generally fell into two categories: those with small, turbocharged engines and hybrid cars that use both battery power and gasoline. About three-fourths of the tested turbos performed under expectations, and some hybrids ended up doing little better than their conventional cousins sharing the same nameplate. One of our favorite examples of boondoggle, the Chevy Volt, is rated by the EPA at 98 miles per gallon when on battery power, but once the battery runs out (after only 35 miles) the car manages just 37 miles per gallon. Overall, in highway mode a Volt averages only 43 miles per gallon – not much better than the similar-sized Chevy Cruze with its 36 MPG highway rating.
Manufacturers blame the difference on the EPA’s testing method, which simulates highway and city driving by running the vehicle at various speeds on a treadmill. And, apparently, real-world conditions aren’t as favorable to the efficient operation of small turbocharged engines and hybrids. Isn’t it odd that the poorest performing cars are the ones the government most wants us to drive?
Around the Nation: DC vs Walmart, Take Two
Last week we told you about Walmart’s decision to withdraw plans to bring six stores and some 1,800 much-needed retail positions into Washington, DC. The retail giant took a tongue-lashing from city council members for denouncing the city’s Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would have required Walmart to pay employees a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour. After all, if the world’s largest retailer wanted to put down roots inside the District, then they needed to pay their “fair share.” Walmart pulled out, instead.
But NBC reports that the city doesn’t even pay their own employees the aforementioned “living wage.” In fact, some custodians and maintenance workers make only $11.75 per hour while a clerk at the University of the District of Columbia earns even less – just $10.40 per hour. Consider it another case study in government hypocrisy: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
On Cross-Examination: Federal Reserve ‘Easing’
“Ben Bernanke has a message for Wall Street and Main Street: Don’t worry, expect no big changes in Fed policy – unless the economy changes in a major way. … In his remarks Wednesday to Congress, Bernanke implied the central bank might soon ‘taper’ its bond purchases under the quantitative easing (QE) program if the economy strengthens later this year – though he doesn’t expect the zero interest rate policy to end soon. ‘With unemployment still high and declining only gradually, and with inflation running below the (Fed’s) longer-run objective,’ Bernanke told lawmakers, ‘a highly accommodative monetary policy will remain appropriate for the foreseeable future.’ But is this the best way to go? The Fed doesn’t know. The danger is the central bank keeps making the same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place. It’s safe to say the federal government’s $800 billion stimulus and the Fed’s ease didn’t work. Even the Fed’s own beige book calls current growth ‘modest to moderate’ – not exactly a ripping endorsement. All this suggests the Fed has painted itself – and the economy – into a corner. Looked at realistically, the Fed’s ‘easing’ isn’t supporting the economy at all; it’s supporting the federal government’s extraordinarily reckless trillion-dollar-a-year deficit spending habit. This is a huge mistake.” –Investor’s Business Daily
Department of Military Readiness: Air Force Back in the Air
The Air Force struggled to keep its pilots sharp after having nearly one-third of its fleet grounded by Barack Obama’s sequester. Gen. Mike Hostage, head of the Air Combat Command, says, “Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness.” Indeed, this is one of the few areas in which spending cuts do more harm than good, and any impact on military readiness should have been avoided to begin with – national defense is one of the few powers afforded the federal government by the Constitution.
Some relief came this week, however, as $7.5 billion in Defense Department budget reshuffling allowed the Air Force to get the majority of its grounded aircraft back into the air. But the move isn’t a quick or permanent solution. According to the Associated Press, “The Air Force has said it generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return aircrews to mission-ready status.”
These fiscal gymnastics raise two important issues. First, the budget reshuffling is a temporary solution meant to alleviate sequestration’s effects until the FY2014 budget begins on Oct. 1, just over 90 days away. So, we’ll be right back in the hole in a few short months. Additionally, military furloughs remain unaffected. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) notes, “If recent reprogramming measures can put our pilots back in the air, I fully expect the Air Force can also find a way to also end furloughs for this fiscal year.” Given Obama’s lavish vacations and globe-trotting junkets, it’s a disgrace that our military preparedness is suffering.
Unlikely Support for Military Sex-Assault Bill
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been working on legislation to address the alleged rise of sexual assaults in the military. This week, she welcomed some unexpected help from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), who signed on as cosponsors. Gillibrand’s plan, which involves removing top commanders from playing a role in the consideration of sexual assault cases by empowering a new “independent” system for prosecution, was rejected by the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. Every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the top brass for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard, argue that the plan would undermine the chain of command and unit cohesion.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West, who also served a term as a Florida congressman, didn’t mince words: “I think this is reprehensible. I think it’s a slap in the face to those who have served in the military, those who are currently serving.” He elaborated, “You’re really talking about stripping the command authority of men and women that we have put on the front lines and entrusted to support and defend this great Constitution and this great country. You are basically saying that we don’t think you’re capable of doing it. And I think to bring in some type of external … legal entity – that breaks down the good order and discipline of the United States military.”
The commander in chief hasn’t been silent on the issue, either. In May, Obama declared that offenders in the military should be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged.” He concluded, “I expect consequences.” Well, consequences came, all right. Judges and defense lawyers charge that in at least a dozen cases since May, his remarks amounted to “unlawful command influence,” thus tainting trials. Obama has done nothing but socially engineer the military since he took office, thus causing many of the problems we’re now seeing. Would that our men and women in uniform had a real commander in chief again.
NSA Leaker Knows More
As most observers suspected from the beginning, NSA leaker Edward Snowden knows more about secret government programs than he has so far made public. At least that’s according to UK Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, to whom Snowden gave the information. “Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the U.S. government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States,” Greenwald said. “But that’s not his goal.” Perhaps not, but the U.S. is still seeking to have him returned to the country to stand trial for revealing the extent of a program that seemingly broadens all the time.
Meanwhile, Snowden, who currently still resides at the Moscow airport while awaiting asylum, somewhere, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the nomination, “Edward Snowden has – in a heroic effort at great personal cost – revealed the existence and extent of the surveillance the U.S. government devotes to electronic communications worldwide. By putting light on this monitoring program – conducted in contravention of national laws and international agreements – Edward Snowden has helped to make the world a little bit better and safer.” And just think: He could join the ranks of Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Barack Obama as recipients of this utterly meaningless prize.
Faith and Family: Saving the Children in Texas
Pro-lifers in Texas scored a major victory this week with passage of a late-term abortion ban inspired by the desire to stop more Kermit Gosnells. The bill would have passed last month, if not for the now-famous filibuster of Democrat State Senator Wendy Davis and the reprehensible behavior of a pro-abortion mob. As we mentioned in earlier coverage, Davis spent a good part of her 11-hour filibuster attacking Republicans. She later upbraided “politicians trying to boost their own political careers” over the abortion issue.
Thanks to a special session, lawmakers had another chance to vote on the bill, which easily passed in both chambers. Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law thus banning abortions after 20 weeks and mandating that abortion facilities adhere to the same standards as other surgical centers. Security was tightened for the session, and, after the vote, pro-life advocates were advised by law enforcement to take safety precautions.
Davis lost this fight, but her filibuster stunt may have catapulted her into the state’s next gubernatorial race. In the last two weeks of June, she raked in nearly $1 million in donations. If any politician has “boosted their own political career” from the debacle last month, it is she.
Braying Jackasses and George Zimmerman
Spouting off about the George Zimmerman verdict, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, positioning herself for a 2016 presidential bid, said, “No mother, no father, should ever have to fear for their child walking down a street in the United States of America.” Professional race hustler Jesse Jackson threatened, “No doubt, the inclination is to boycott Florida, stop conventions, to isolate Florida as a kind of apartheid state.”
Of course, were it not for generations of Socialist Democratic Party policies and the apartheid urban welfare plantations they create, mothers and fathers would have much less to fear. See Mark Alexander’s essay, What Democrats Won’t Say About Race, for more. And in news today, the Obama Justice Department has instructed the Sanford, Florida, police to retain the evidence in the case, which signals they will review it for possible further prosecution.
Many observers jokingly refer to our maze of alphabet news networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, PBS and so forth) as “propaganda networks,” but the federal government has for decades aired true propaganda around the world via Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, among others, under the umbrella of an agency called the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In many cases, these outlets were intended to counter the “official” news organs of our enemies around the globe and reinforce hope for Liberty-loving people in oppressive countries. BBG affiliates produce thousands of hours of broadcast content each year in dozens of languages.
But a new provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 – called the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act – went into effect this month, and it now allows domestic dissemination of programming originally produced by these outlets for foreign distribution. Proponents argue this would be most useful in expat communities such as the Somali enclave in the Minneapolis area, but opponents worry that Americans will be exposed to pro-military Pentagon propaganda. However, the change applies only to programs under the purview of the State Department.
Because much of the content is intended for foreign audiences, it’s presumed that Americans wouldn’t be very interested in the programming, which is already available over the Internet, if not necessarily in a broadcast-quality format. It will be fascinating to hear just what message Americans put out to the rest of the world, given the propensity of our domestic news networks to provide a statist view. We aren’t holding our breath for a Liberty-loving message.
Don’t take advice from Democrats. The reasons for this are, of course, manifold, but here are two timely examples. First, Joe Biden said this in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders: “I said [to my wife], ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here … put [sic] that double-barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.’” Well, when chasing away people he thought were breaking into his vehicles, a Vancouver, Washington, man “did what Joe Biden told me to do,” and fired a shotgun blast in the air. He was then summarily charged with one count of illegal aiming or discharging of a firearm. Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Next up, two Kennedys were recently involved in a water-based rescue. Impossible, you say? No, really – Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his brother Max saved the life of a leatherback turtle caught in a Nantucket Sound buoy line. Unfortunately for them, saving wildlife without the experts is, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Division of Fisheries, “a violation of the Endangered Species Act and we discourage people from doing it.” Since the two brothers are Kennedys, however, they won’t face any charges – unlike the 11-year-old Virginian who saved a woodpecker or the Indiana man who helped a bald eagle.
Mary Jo Kopechne was not available for comment, but we feel confident enough to offer this moral of the story: Do not attempt to rescue drowning sea turtles. Do attempt to rescue drowning humans. In fact, we’d encourage folks to always do pretty much the opposite of what a Kennedy does.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team