Posts Tagged ‘congress’

Election 2016


It seems that every four years Americans are faced with a choice that often leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. We elect and vote for choices based on the best available candidates, we hope. When it comes time to vote, we somehow also fall for the rhetoric that our very way of life is threatened if the other guy wins and the only way to ensure our preservation is to cast our ballot in favor of “our” guy.

This election is no different, but now we have a woman.After reviewing all of them I’m not so sure the American people benefit with anyone.


Bernie Sanders- Bernie Sanders is a crowd favorite. He brings an authenticity with him that connects with his constituents and his supporters. His track record on civil rights and the rights of minorities is impenetrable. He has energized a whole young population that feels disenfranchised and disengaged from the whole political landscape that their parents live in.

He wants to regulate the banks and get big money out of politics. He also has accomplished a feat never done before. He has wedge into the democratic system that the term socialist is not an evil word and changed the course of campaigning forever. He has answered the call for millions of people who hate the “business as usual” mechanics of politics that often leave minorities in the cold.

The issues aren’t with Bernie’s message it’s that if he were to become president, how effective can he be to make that changes his campaign ran on. Americans are fearful of the term socialist and congress is not just gonna grovel at his feet just cause the people want change. Back in 2008, when Obama became president there was a feeling of real, radical change was going to happen and shifts in policy and laws were going to be enacted that would help African-Americans and other poor groups. After months of fine dining us, Americans were finding out Obama had trouble paying the bill for the meal he ordered and well, we got stuck doing some dishes. I feel this will play out the same way with Bernie.

His supporters aren’t looking for another compromise or a back alley deal that meets in the middle. They want real change for that to happen, Sanders pinned himself in an unwavering position. Sanders records on gun control is murky at best because he against a five-day waiting period for background checks in 1993, but also voted against selling of automatic weapons. He also is another war mongering leader in the making who voted for wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Even Clinton has taken a lot of heat for the 1994 Crime Bill, but Sanders has somehow been able his vote through undetected.

When asked about it, he gives an explanation that is acceptable to his supporters, but others like myself puzzled. In their eyes he can do no wrong. So my question is this. If Sanders is so civil rights, then why did he vote for the Crime Bill knowing the repercussions it would have on generations of African-Americans. Also, don’t the victims of bombings and attacks in Middle Eastern countries by our military deserve rights, our are black and brown rights only relevant on our soil?


Hillary Clinton-Clinton has the chance to make history in this race and that has come at a cost. Her character, voting records, previous comments and experience has all come into question. While Clinton has the drive and fortitude of her male counterparts, has an edge in foreign policy, that her opponents on the right and left do not have. Through her Apprentice Tax Credit that can help millions of Americans. Gun Control advocates back her and she has one of the best presidents of our generation to call on in a moments notice living in the same home, her husband and former president Bill Clinton.

Clinton has faced numerous amounts of attacks that only seemed to be fueled by sexism, ageist and relentlessness by the GOP. With every report about her, whether it’s Benghazi or the current email scandal her opponents find simple-minded attacks to weaken her resolve. She’s been the most scrutinized and politicized figure in this race. Sanders hammers her on her cozy relationship with banks and big budget corporations. While Trump seems to have label her as crooked and makes over inflated statements about her emails, that most Americans just want to move on from.

Hillary’s biggest problem throughout all this has been herself. Three years ago she was the most likable candidate assuming she was going to run at the time. Now her poll numbers show a problem that has become an anchor in her sailboat. Frankly, a lot of voters don’t like or trust her. GOP has a small victory in their corner,but Sanders and his supporters don’t buy into her talk of tough politics against bankers and lobbyists. She also played her hand too late on issues such as immigration, abortion, Keystone Pipeline and others.

This makes her look too indecisive and that someone else is feeding her what to say and how to say it. This is troubling to Americans who want a president who will walk into the situation room or summit with world leaders and give a clear-cut answer at a moments notice when the time comes. Other missteps have been her pandering to the African-American community which she has been called out on numerous times.

Hillary’s biggest challenge won’t be winning the nomination,but concentrating her energy towards Bernie’s supporters without pivoting too far away from her central message that got her base initially. Some Bernie supporters have already vowed to either vote for Trump or not at all if Hillary wins.


Donald Trump- Donald Trump has been the most controversial outspoken candidate of this generation. He has insulted Latinos, Muslims, Women, the disabled, captured war heroes and other groups as well. His racially divisive and hurtful attacks pierce right into the heart of the issue that seems to be the unspoken case of racial disparity and underlining bigotry in our so-called progressive country.

Trump has effectively collected the population of those who feel marginalized, by the growing threat of losing the country their ancestors gained. Trump supporters are overwhelmingly white and mostly males. When his supporters speak of him, their most likely to say how much of a great speaker he is and how he tells it like it is.

They also like the fact that Trump doesn’t have to gravel at the feet of those lobbyists and campaign donors that the other candidate did. He funded most of the campaign himself and his supporters as well. He has a tax plan proposal that would exempt single filers making $25,000 and under from paying taxes.

His biggest win in his campaign has been drawing in the GOP with a gravitational like pull towards himself. Most candidates usually make statements to parallel the GOP brand and narrative already in play. Trump has disregarded the verbal talking points of conservatism and has made inflammatory remarks, one after the other. Even with Governors, Speaker of the House and rivals calling him out on his statements, they all are united in voting for him. That’s much like your uncle saying how much he hates gay people and proposing legislation against them, but the family has to keep putting up with him, because he’s grannies favorite.

What works against Trump has been Trump himself. Unlike Clinton, who’s pandering hurt her to be a favorite among undecided voters, Trump has alienated a base of supporters that the GOP has desperately been trying to obtain that the democrats has had a strong hold on…minorities. His constant remarks about building a wall to keep Mexicans out and increasing security against immigrant Muslims has turned him into apotheosis of angry racist white hatred. He’s a fan favorite among white supremacists and shows no signs of slowing down his tone. He recently made statements about a federal judge who is of Mexican background that again pinned him down to be racist and bigoted.

In addition to Trump inciting racism, he also is a compulsive liar with a bad temperament. He has countless sound bits that has been fact checked and found out to be downright lies.

When you go and vote on these candidate be informed about them, but just don’t vote on your emotions learn about the candidate.


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Apology for Slavery

Back in 2009 the Senate made a unanimous resolution to apologize for slavery. “You wonder why we didn’t do it 100 years ago,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. “It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice.” One year prior the house made a similar apology except the senate’s version is more explicit about whether descendants of slavery are entitled to reparations. The senate recognized and apologized for slavery, however, it did not want to use this admittance for claims for reparations. The resolution did at least acknowledge slavery and representative Tom Harkin called it a “important and significant milestone” . Dealing with the issue at the time was of no coincidence, with the election of now TWO TERM PRESIDENT Obama it was an issue representative Stephen I. Cohen fought for ten years ago and never stopped for it.

Cohen does add to this resolution and sums up the feeling of the moment. “There are going to be African-Americans who think that [the apology] is not reparations, and it’s not action, and there are going to be Caucasians who say, ‘Get over it.’ . . . I look at it as something that makes people think.” Republicans at the time were supportive of the resolution, even though college professor of political science Carol M. Swain says the republicans should have pushed for the measure and calls it “meaningless” since the democrats already have Barack Obama and a large minority vote. “The Republican Party needed to do it,” Swain said. “It would have shed that racist scab on the party.” “It doesn’t fix everything, but it does go a long way toward acknowledgment and moving us on to the next steps to building a more perfect union, doing the things that Martin Luther King would talk about, like building a colorblind society,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

Charles Ogletree, the Harvard law professor who has championed restitution was consulted and supported the resolution, but says this is not a substitute for reparations. Randall Robinson, author of “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks,” said he sees the Senate’s apology as a “confession” that should lead to a next step of reparations. “Much is owed, and it is very quantifiable,” he said. “It is owed as one would owe for any labor that one has not paid for, and until steps are taken in that direction we haven’t accomplished anything.”

Apology to Native Americans

African-Americans weren’t the only one owed an apology for genocidal acts against their kind. Native Americans also suffered in this country greatly. The apology came in 2009 in a spending bill that was unrelated, the Defense Appropriation Act of 2010 was a 67 page bill where the recognition for the suffering shed light. On page 45 of the bill it states “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States” in section 8113. “The United States, acting through Congress,” states Sec. 8113, “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;” and “expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together.”

Though this serves as an admittance to the long history of hardship it does not give leeway for liability. “Nothing in this section authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States,” states the apology. The apology also urges the President of the Unites States to “acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land.”  In the two years of the enactment a public announcement by the Obama administration has yet to come to the Native Americans. The rhetoric in the bill actually came from two senators who tried to make this happen back in 2004. Senators Sam Brownback(R) and Byron Dorgan(D) proposed a Native American Apology Resolution in 2008 and 2009 that was shot down.

In December 19, 2012 the apology was read by Mark Charles a representative for the Navajo nation. He hosted a public reading in front of Capitol in Washington, D.C. “This apology was buried in H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act,” wrote Charles on his Reflections from the Hogan blog. “It was signed by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2009 but was never announced, publicized or read publicly by either the White House or the 111th Congress.” “Given the context, the appropriations sections of H.R. 3326 sounded almost nonsensical,” wrote Charles. “But there was something very deep and meaningful about hearing them being read by Native Americans. To me it sounded almost like a silent form of protest. We were not pointing fingers, nor were we calling out our leaders by name, we have just highlighted the inappropriateness of the context and delivery of their apology.”

Apology to the Japanese 

In 1988 under President Reagans signature the Civil Liberties Act was initiated. Under this act compensation was given to more than 100,000 Japanese descendants. The legislation offered an apology and wait for ..wait for it…...$20,000 dollars a piece to each surviving victim. It did take over ten years of campaigning from the Japanese American community for them to get the win for congressional approval. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the act, the Civil Liberties Act was put on display at the national archives right alongside the original executive order 9066 which authorized the internment. Marielle Tsukamoto grew up in an internment camp said “shivers up and down [her] back” because she realized it ruined lives.

According to Bruce Custard a senior curator says the exhibition is a potent reminder of what federal documents really mean. “They are filled with legalese, and again that to me reinforces the idea that from these sorts of legal decisions that our government makes, these kinds of consequences can happen.”  The camps themselves when described by John Tateishi were nothing more than makeshift barracks with cramped families and loved ones behind barbed wire. A majority of the internees were from the West Coast, where they were taken away from their own communities, liquidating their businesses when war authorities abducted them and placed them in the camps. Tateishi still remembers the embarrassment and degradation he felt during that time. “We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country.” He says that after the war most families never spoke about it. “There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way.”

The turning point came out of the civil rights movement which inspired the younger generation to speak out and start the Japanese American Citizens League, “You have to sometimes bring your community, dragging and screaming behind you, but you better have strong convictions that what you’re doing is right,” he says. In 1980 an investigation was commissioned by Congress. The investigation gave a final report calling the incarceration a “grave injustice” caused by “racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership.” Tateishi says the campaign was less about compensation and more about the next generation. “There is a saying in Japanese culture, ‘kodomo no tame ni,’ which means, ‘for the sake of the children.’ And for us running this campaign, that had much to do with it,” he saysi. “It’s the legacy we’re handing down to them and to the nation to say that, ‘You can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it — and by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again.’ ”

Apology for Hawaii 

November 23, 1993 President Bill Clinton signed United States public law 103-150 or what it is better known as “The Apology Resolution”. This new law was to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17th, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a formal apology from the United States government.  Until 1893 the US recognized the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Hawaii Government as independent. It was given full and complete diplomatic recognition. From January 14th 1893 this all changed, the US minister assigned to the sovereign and independent Kingdom of Hawaii conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiians residents of the Kingdom of Hawaii and US citizens to overthrow the indigenous and lawful Government of Hawaii.

Queen Liliuokalani issued the following statement yielding her authority to the United States Government rather than to the Provisional Government:”I Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.”That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed a Honolulu and declared that he would support the Provisional Government.”Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”- Queen Liliuokalani, Jan 17, 1893

President Grover Cleveland sent a message to congress on December 18, 1893 about the accurate and detailed reports of the illegal acts of the conspirators and described these actions as “acts of war” with the help of a diplomatic representative of the United States that was given no authority from Congress. He acknowledged that a peaceful and friendly government people was overthrown and went on to say, “substantial wrong has thus been done, which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair” and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
The Congress
Apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893… and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination;
Expresses its commitment to acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, in order to provide a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people; and
urges the President of the United States to also acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and to support reconciliation efforts between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people.

the logical consequences of this resolution would be independence.”
– Senator Slade Gorton (R-Washington), US Senate Congressional Record
Wednesday, October 27, 1993, 103rd Cong. 1st Sess.

The Germans did more than apologize

You in reading these articles I collected for this blog. I realized that an apology is not enough, especially when generations of lives have been lost.The Germans don’t get a lot of credit for making steps to right the wrongs of history. With the crimes against the Jews and the ancestors that were execrably taken just for living the Germans have apologized for the Holocaust almost 70 years ago. The Germans in addition to apologizing gave back more than 63 Billion in euros in reparations and millions in addition to that are still being paid out to Jews in Israel and Eastern Europe. In addition to all of that, so the Germans will not forget its past sins the German government also commemorates the Holocaust.


U.S. Capitol

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The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, early Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Congress’ numbers are bad on all fronts. In addition to the most recent Gallup poll that put public approval of Capitol Hill at just 9 percent, Congress is poised to pass the fewest number of laws in 66 years.


As the last month of the year begins, Congress has passed fewer than 60 new laws since January.

Some of them — such as increasing relief after Hurricane Sandy, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and maintaining military pay during the shutdown — were crucial. But other laws just…weren’t.

Here are six of the more inconsequential laws passed so far by the 113th Congress:


1. In Liberty We Catch

The same month that the gun reform bill failed in the Senate, Congress sent a bill to the president that dealt with an issue of somewhat questionable importance: “To specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.”

The coins are set to be released in 2014 and are curved like a baseball glove with the words “liberty” and “in God we trust” printed on one side. The legislative branch amended the original bill for the coins “by striking ‘have’ and inserting ‘be struck on a planchet having a'” in two locations.

Thanks, government.


2. What’s In A Name?

One of the few matters able to gain bipartisan support in 2013 dealt with naming various buildings, bridges, and even a tax code.

Thanks to a bill sponsored by New Hampshire Rep. Ann Kuster, a Democrat, the air traffic control center of Nashua, N.H., will now be known as the “Patricia Clark Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center” in honor of Patricia Clark for her 50 years (and counting) of service to the center.

But Clark wasn’t alone in her recognition from the 113th Congress. They also dubbed the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge on Interstate 70 in St. Louis, the Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building in D.C., and the C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Florida.


3. Former Senator Gets Her Own Section Of The IRS Code

But, with all due respect to Clark and her cohorts, only one person this year was lucky enough to have a tax code named after her: former Republican Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In July, section 219(c) of the Internal Revenue Code was officially renamed the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA after one of the section’s authors.

The section increased the annual amount that stay-at-home mothers were able to contribute to their IRAs, and it was a great achievement for Hutchison during her time in the Senate, partially due to her personal experience with that particular tax code.

“[The bill] came from an experience I had when I opened an IRA as a single woman. When I married and was not working, I was unable to make a full contribution because the law did not allow spouses who work inside the home the opportunity to establish full IRAs,” Hutchison said when the bill passed. “Every working person or homemaker spouse should have the equal opportunity to establish retirement security through an Individual Retirement Account.”

Hutchison retired from government in 2012 after a failed bid for governor, and her seat was filled by Tea Party Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The bill to honor her was one of the greatest bipartisan movements of the year for Congress.


4. Minutemen Missile National Site Gets More Parking

While immigration advocates may be less than impressed with the progress Congress has made for them, and those proposing tough immigration laws were also unhappy, the state of South Dakota can rest assured that their Minutemen Missile National Historic Site will soon include additional parking space.

In September, President Obama signed the Congress-approved grant of “approximately 25 acres of land within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, located north of exit 131 on Interstate 90” to the historical site for a visitors’ center and administrative building–as well as another three acres for the visitors’ parking lot.


5. Mind the ‘Bean Field Property’

The Senate started this bill, signed in September, to properly address a 67-acres parcel of land in Mississippi designated as “the bean field property.”

According to the bill, “The deed of conveyance to the parcel of land that is located southeast of U.S. Route 61/84 and which is commonly known as the `bean field property’ shall reserve an easement to the United States restricting the use of the parcel to only those uses which are compatible with the Natchez Trace Parkway.”

Glad we got that one of out of the way, Congress.


6. Wyomans Get To Keep On Aiming

Gun legislation remains one of the most divisive topics throughout government, but regulars of the Powell Shooting Range in Wyoming provided common ground on a gun bill.

One September law passed through Congress properly conveyed approximately 322 acres of land to the gun club and required that the land be only used as a shooting range or “for any other public purpose.”

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FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2013, file photo Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left, and Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore., take part in a news conference on the Farm Bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. Members of the House and Senate are scheduled to begin long-awaited negotiations Wednesday, Oct. 30, on the five-year, roughly $500 billion farm bill. If they don't finish it dairy supports could expire at the end of the year, sending the price of a gallon of milk skyward, and a contentious debate over food stamps could spill into election season. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The fight over renewing the nation’s farm bill has centered on cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program. But there could be unintended consequences if no agreement is reached: higher milk prices.

Members of the House and Senate are scheduled to begin long-awaited negotiations on the five-year, roughly $500 billion bill this week. If they don’t finish it, dairy supports could expire at the end of the year and send the price of a gallon of milk skyward.

There could be political ramifications, too. The House and Senate are far apart on the sensitive issue of how much money to cut from food stamps, and lawmakers are hoping to resolve that debate before election-year politics set in.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who is one of the negotiators on the bill, says the legislation could also be a rare opportunity for the two chambers to show they can get along.

“In the middle of the chaos of the last month comes opportunity,” Klobuchar says of the farm legislation. “This will really be a test of the House of whether they are willing to work with us.”

The farm bill, which sets policy for farm subsidies, the food stamps and other rural development projects, has moved slowly through Congress in the last two years as lawmakers have focused on higher-profile priorities, like budget negotiations, health care and immigration legislation.

But farm-state lawmakers are appealing to their colleagues to harken back to more bipartisan times and do something Congress hasn’t done very much lately — pass a major piece of legislation.

Even President Barack Obama, who has been largely silent on the farm bill as it has wound through Congress, said as the government reopened earlier this month that the farm bill “would make a huge difference in our economy right now.”

“What are we waiting for?” Obama said. “Let’s get this done.”

The main challenge in getting the bill done will be the differences on food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The House has passed legislation to cut around $4 billion annually, or around 5 percent, including changes in eligibility and work requirements. The Senate has proposed a cut of around a tenth of that amount.

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FILE - This May 15, 2013 file photo shows stacks of …

FILE – This May 15, 2013 file photo shows stacks of paperwork awaiting members of the House Agricult …

“I think there are very different world views clashing on food stamps and those are always more difficult to resolve,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.

Johnson says coming together on the farm issues, while there are differences, will be easier because the mostly farm-state lawmakers negotiating the bill have common goals.

Passing a farm bill could help farm-state lawmakers in both parties in next year’s elections, though some Republicans are wary of debating domestic food aid in campaign season. Republican House leaders put the bill on hold during the 2012 election year.

One way to pass the bill quickly could be to wrap it into budget negotiations that will be going on at the same time. The farm bill is expected to save tens of billions of dollars through food stamp cuts and eliminating some subsidy programs, and “that savings has become more key as we go into budget negotiations,” Klobuchar said.

If that doesn’t work, lawmakers could extend current law, as they did at the end of last year when the dairy threat loomed. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he wants to finish the bill and won’t support another extension.

One of the reasons the bill’s progress has moved slowly is that most of farm country is enjoying a good agricultural economy, and farmers have not clamored for changes in policy. But with deadlines looming, many say they need more government certainty to make planting decisions. Most of the current law expired in September, though effects largely won’t be felt until next year when the dairy supports expire.

Some farmers are feeling the effects of the expired bill now, however. An early blizzard in South Dakota earlier this month killed thousands of cattle, and a federal disaster program that could have helped cover losses has expired.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., also a negotiator on the conference committee, says her constituents aren’t concerned with the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, but they just want to see a bill pass.

“Maybe the biggest question is can we put together a bill that can pass on the House and Senate floor,” she said.


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Schumer and Reid appear at a news conference in Washington

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U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appear at a news conference after bipartisan passage of stopgap budget and debt legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 16, 2013. The U.S. Senate approved a deal on Wednesday to end a political crisis that partially shut down the federal government and brought the world’s biggest economy to the edge of a debt default that could have threatened financial calamity. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government reopened its doors Thursday after a battle-weary Congress approved a bipartisan measure to end a 16-day partial shutdown and avert the possibility of an economy-jarring default on U.S. obligations.

Early Thursday, President Barack Obama signed the measure, which the House and Senate passed late Wednesday, ending a brawl with Republicans who tried to use the must-pass legislation to mount a last-ditch effort to derail the president’s landmark health care law and demand concessions on the budget.

The White House directed all agencies to reopen promptly and in an orderly fashion. Furloughed federal employees across the country are expected to return to work Thursday.

The impasse had shuttered national parks and monuments, and mostly closed down NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. Critical functions of government went on as usual and most federal employees won’t see their paychecks delayed, but the closure and potential default weighed on the economy and spooked the financial markets.

There were signs early Thursday that the federal government was slowly coming back to life. “We’re back from the #shutdown!” the Smithsonian Institution crowed on Twitter, announcing that museums would reopen Thursday and the National Zoo in Washington on Friday.

Standard & Poor’s estimated the shutdown has taken $24 billion out of the economy, and the Fitch credit rating agency warned Tuesday that it was reviewing its AAA rating on U.S. government debt for a possible downgrade.

Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill were the decisive winners in the fight, which was sparked by tea party Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who prevailed upon skeptical GOP leaders to use a normally routine short-term funding bill to “defund” the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, conceded in a radio interview. He was given positive reviews from Republicans for his handling of the crisis, though it again exposed the tenuous grasp he holds over the fractious House GOP conference.

Yet Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the American people clearly disapprove of how Republicans, and also Democrats and the president, handled the budget gridlock.

“Hopefully, the lesson is to stop this foolish childishness,” McCain said Thursday on CNN.

The shutdown sent GOP approval ratings numbers reeling in public opinion polls and exasperated veteran lawmakers who saw it and the possibility of default as folly.

“After two long weeks, it is time to end this government shutdown. It’s time to take the threat of default off the table,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said before the vote. “It’s time to restore some sanity to this place.”

The agreement was brokered by the Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and its Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They stepped in after the House was unable to coalesce around a Republican-only approach Tuesday.

McConnell is up for re-election next year, and his tea party primary opponent issued a statement blasting his role.

“When the stakes are highest, Mitch McConnell can always be counted on to sell out conservatives,” Matt Bevin said. In the House, conservatives praised Boehner for tenacity.

The Senate approved the legislation by an 81-18 vote; the House followed suit by a tally of 285-144, with 87 Republicans in favor and 144 against, breaking an informal rule that a majority of the majority party is supposed to carry legislation. Democrats unanimously supported the bill, even though it locks in funding at levels required by across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

The legislation would fund the government through Jan. 15 and permit it to borrow normally through Feb. 7, though Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew retains the capacity to employ accounting maneuvers to create wiggle room on the debt limit into mid-March or so.

Most House Republicans opposed the compromise bill for failing to do anything about deficits and debt.

“All this does is delay this fight four months,” Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said. “We need to get to the underlying cause of the problem, which is our out-of-control spending and deficits, and fix it before it’s too late and we go down the toilet to bankruptcy because that’s where America is headed.”

The bill’s passage was only a temporary truce that sets up another collision between Obama and Republicans over spending and borrowing early next year. It’s the second time this year that Congress has passed legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap with few if any conditions on the president, reversing a 2011 precedent in which the threat of default was used to extract $2.1 trillion in spending cuts from a politically wounded Obama.

“With the shutdown behind us,” Obama said after the Senate vote, “we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair and that helps hardworking people all across this country.”

At the same time, House-Senate talks will begin on a broader budget pact in hopes of curbing deficits and easing across-the-board budget cuts that have slammed the Pentagon and domestic agencies alike. Such agreements have proven elusive in the current era of divided government.

“No one thinks this will be easy” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said of budget negotiations. Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., along with their ranking minority members, immediately scheduled a breakfast meeting for Thursday to break the ice.


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A few Washington, D.C., restaurants have a little something extra on the menu for Congress members during the government shutdown. These eateries are charging lawmakers more for food and drink.

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daily dish

Credit: Zena Polin.


Shutdown specials are all the rage for furloughed employees. At the Daily Dish in Silver Spring, Md., furloughed government employees get free coffee. But “members of Congress pay double,” as the sign outside the restaurant says.

No one from Congress has yet to come in and pay the extra cost, Daily Dish co-owner Zena Polin told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. But the announcement of the price differential has earned the vote of customers. While explaining that the move was “a little tongue in cheek,” Polin said, “We’ve had such great feedback.”

D.C.’s Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is offering happy hour to all customers except elected officials in the House and Senate. As noted in the Tweet below, the lawmakers belly up to a different payment plan.


Meanwhile, some restaurants merely excluded Capitol Hill lawmakers from their furlough freebies. Celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio of Range offered complimentary pizza to the furloughed but used a forked tongue to remind legislators that they don’t qualify.


No pizza, huh? Let them eat … cake?


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In this Oct. 1, 2013, photo, The Ohio Clock outside the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill shows the time of 12:01 a.m., in Washington. Having failed to persuade their traditional Republican allies in Congress to avert a government shutdown, business leaders fear bigger problems ahead, and they’re taking sides with a Democratic president whose health care and regulatory agenda they have vigorously opposed. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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Associated Press 


WASHINGTON (AP) — Business leaders are taking sides with Democratic President Barack Obama after failing to persuade their traditional Republican allies in Congress to avert a government shutdown.

Obama, whose health care and regulatory agenda they have vigorously opposed, is embracing the business outreach, eager to employ groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street CEOs to portray House Republicans as out of touch even with their long-established corporate and financial patrons.

Yet, the partial closing of the government and the looming confrontation over the nation’s borrowing limit highlight the remarkable drop in the business community’s influence among House Republicans, who increasingly respond more to tea party conservatives than to the Chamber of Commerce.

On Wednesday, Obama hosted 14 chief executives from the nation’s biggest financial firms for more than an hour of meetings. Moreover, the Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Congress signed by about 250 business groups urging no shutdown and warning that a debt ceiling crisis could lead to an economic disaster. They say that the policy disputes over health care and spending that are separating Democrats and Republicans should be debated later.

Summing up the Wall Street CEOs’ message on the White House driveway Wednesday, Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, said:

“You can re-litigate these policy issues in a political forum, but we shouldn’t use threats of causing the U.S. to fail on its obligations to repay its debt as a cudgel.”

The divide between some GOP lawmakers and the corporate groups that have helped shape the Republican agenda in the past is partly a result of a legacy of the Wall Street bailouts of 2008-09 and a changing communication and campaign finance landscape that has weakened the roles of corporate donors and of the major political parties.

Interviews with House Republicans from all regions of the country demonstrate the corporate community’s waning clout. Most of these lawmakers say local business owners and chambers of commerce have not raised the potential economic downside of a government shutdown or debt default.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, like many of his colleagues, said the overwhelming message he hears from business owners is their dislike of Obama’s health care overhaul, which is at the center of Congress’ impasse and the government shutdown. Likewise, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said he mostly hears business owners complain “about the negative effects of ‘Obamacare’ upon their ability to do business and hire people.”

When Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., was asked if he had heard business groups express fears of a government shutdown’s economic impact, he replied: “No. And it wouldn’t make any difference if I did.”

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President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the …

President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tu …

Still, major business groups are raising alarms, citing the economic cost of a shutdown and warning of even more serious consequences if Congress doesn’t act quickly to raise the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit, which the government is expected to hit around mid-October.

The letter circulated by the Chamber of Commerce urges lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling “in a timely manner and remove any threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.” It also acknowledges Republican fears over the unsustainable growth of major benefit programs such Medicare and Social Security and the need for a more business-friendly tax system.

But in a rejection of the tactics of House Speaker John Boehner, the letter urges Congress to pass first a short-term spending bill, then raise the debt ceiling, “and then return to work on these other vital issues.”

That advice is being ignored by the GOP-led House.

“There is an element of the more independent, tea party coalition Republicans that, frankly, don’t listen to very many people,” said John Engler, the former Republican governor of Michigan and now president of the Business Roundtable, one of the groups that signed the chamber letter. “They are on a mission, often defined on the basis of their view of the world, and they aren’t paying very much attention to what this means beyond maybe their own districts.”

Concerned, the Chamber of Commerce is preparing to participate in political primaries, protecting friendly lawmakers from conservative challengers. “Clearly we’re getting to a point where we need a Congress that’s going to be productive, proactive and create a stable environment for economic growth and job creation,” said Scott Reed, a Republican political consultant who is advising the chamber on its strategy.

A changing environment has given conservatives plenty of tools to challenge establishment Republicans by using new technology and social media to organize and mobilize highly motivated voters. Campaign finance laws have also given donors a greater playing field that is not limited to the political parties.

What’s more, the bank bailouts of 2008 and 2009 soured the public, which resulted in a new wave of populist Republicans in 2010 driven by a decentralized tea party movement that was not beholden to the GOP establishment.

As a result, said Kevin Madden, a former senior House Republican leadership aide and an adviser to Mitt Romney’ presidential campaign, the political parties, congressional committee chairmen and big donors no longer wield the clout they once did.

“Now it’s more of a bottom-up model, where you see these grass-roots organizations and grass-roots voters are now empowered and they feel they have a stronger voice,” he said. “There is less of an emphasis on the parties. They used to have much more outsize control over who the candidates were and what party discipline was. Now a lot of that is gone.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., emphasized that point. “I’m from a district that pretty much ignores Washington,” he said. “If you say government is going to shut down, they say, ‘OK, which part can we shut down?'”


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