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Government by the Week: Is A Government Shutdown The End-Game For The GOP?

Parents have begun arranging alternative child care for their preschoolers, uncertain of whether their Head Start program will be there when they need it. The Social Security Administration is unable to open new hearing offices to handle a backlog of appeals. The Pentagon has had to delay equipment repairs. There is chaos throughout the federal government, as Robert Pear reported in The Times on Tuesday, because a riven Congress has forced agencies to operate on a week-by-week basis.

Yet, on Tuesday, the House passed another short-term spending bill. This one keeps things going for all of three weeks. The Senate will almost certainly join in shortly to avoid an impending shutdown on Friday, the result of the stopgap bill from two weeks ago.

These slipshod exercises in governance were choreographed by House Republicans, who knew that neither the Senate nor President Obama would ever accept their original proposal to gut nonsecurity discretionary spending with $61 billion in cuts through September, including riders to end financing for Planned Parenthood and the health care law. They had hoped to use the pressure of a potential shutdown to achieve much of their goal, but, so far, all they have accomplished is a cut of about $10 billion, mostly from earmarks or programs that the president himself proposed to cut. (The new bill cuts $6 billion.)

House Republican leaders, who say they do not want a government shutdown, have, so far, held off their more fanatical freshmen, who want to slash everything in sight. But the leadership cannot do so forever, and the evidence of that was clear on Tuesday. More than 50 Republicans refused to go along with the three-week resolution because it did not cut enough. Several specifically complained that it allowed financing for Planned Parenthood and the health care law to continue.

This is not a group that cares much for pragmatic compromise, and the three weeks are just a timeout. Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican who voted no on the new bill, spoke for many of his colleagues when he said the budget could not be resolved without a willingness to shut down government. “By giving liberals in the Senate another three weeks of negotiations,” he said, “we will only delay a confrontation that must come.”

He is absolutely right about that. If Democrats, including the president, do not draw a clear line soon, making their priorities and their limits unmistakable, they will be harried by these kinds of votes for years. Even in the unlikely case that an agreement is reached in three weeks to finance the government through September, a different vote will be necessary just a few weeks from now to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans have already vowed to vote that down — even though it could be financially disastrous — if they do not get their way. And then there is the vote for the fiscal 2012 budget, which begins Oct. 1, and then the year after that.

At some point, Mr. Pence will get his confrontation. If Republicans continue to press for cuts of tens of billions from discretionary spending, setting back the economic recovery largely for ideological purposes, Democrats will have to say no, even if that results in a short-term shutdown. The American people will be able to figure out who is at fault. Responsible governing means agreeing quickly to a deal to finish out the fiscal year, and then starting a serious talk about entitlement programs and taxes — the real causes of a soaring deficit.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, March 15, 2011

March 16, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School of Glock-Get Your Graduate Degree Here

It’s been nearly nine weeks since that tragic shooting in Tucson, and you may be wondering whether there’s been any gun legislation proposed in the aftermath.

Well, in Florida, a state representative has introduced a bill that would impose fines of up to $5 million on any doctor who asks a patient whether he or she owns a gun. This is certainly a new and interesting concept, but I don’t think we can classify it as a response to Tucson. Jason Brodeur, the Republican who thought it up, says it’s a response to the health care reform act.

A sizable chunk of this country seems to feel as though there is nothing so secure that it can’t be endangered by Obamacare. It’s only a matter of time before somebody discovers that giving everyone access to health insurance poses a terrible threat to the armed forces, or the soybean crop, or poodles.

Brodeur’s is one of many, many gun bills floating around state legislatures these days. Virtually all of them seem to be based on the proposition that one of the really big problems we have in this country is a lack of weaponry. His nightmare scenario is that thanks to the “overreaching federal government,” insurance companies would learn who has guns from the doctors and use the information to raise the owners’ rates.

However, it turns out that the health care law has a provision that specifically prohibits insurers from reducing any coverage or benefits because of gun ownership. A St. Petersburg Times reporter, Aaron Sharockman, looked this up. I had no idea, did you? Apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid himself stuck this in to make the gun-lobby folks happy.

Which they really aren’t. The gun lobby will never be happy, unless the health care law specifically requires every American to have a pistol on his or her person at all times.

Great idea! thought State Representative Hal Wick of South Dakota, who tossed in a bill this year requiring every adult citizen to purchase a gun. Actually, even Wick admitted this one wasn’t going anywhere. It was mainly a symbolic protest against the you-know-what law.

Actual responses to the Tucson shooting — that is, something that might actually stop similar tragedies in the future or reduce the carnage — seem to be limited to a proposal in Congress to ban the sale of the kind of ammunition clip that allowed the gunman to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds. That bill is stalled at the gate. Perhaps Congress has been too busy repeatedly voting on bills to repeal the health care law to think about anything else. But, so far, the gun-clip ban has zero Republican supporters, which is a problem given the matter of the Republicans being in the House majority.

Meanwhile in the states, legislation to get more guns in more places (public libraries, college campuses) is getting a more enthusiastic reception.

The nation’s state legislators seem to be troubled by a shortage of things they can do to make the National Rifle Association happy. Once you’ve voted to allow people to carry guns into bars (Georgia), eliminated the need for getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon (Arizona) and designated your own official state gun (Utah — awaiting the governor’s signature), it gets hard to come up with new ideas.

This may be why so many states are now considering laws that would prohibit colleges and universities from barring guns on campus.

“It’s about people having the right to personal protection,” said Daniel Crocker, the southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Concealed Carry on Campus is a national organization of students dedicated to opening up schools to more weaponry. Every spring it holds a national Empty Holster Protest “symbolizing that disarming all law-abiding citizens creates defense-free zones, which are attractive targets for criminals.”

And you thought the youth of America had lost its idealism. Hang your head.

The core of the great national gun divide comes down to this: On one side, people’s sense of public safety goes up as the number of guns goes down; the other side responds to every gun tragedy by reflecting that this might have been averted if only more legally armed citizens had been on the scene.

I am on the first side simply because I believe that in a time of crisis, there is no such thing as a good shot.

“Police, on average, for every 10 rounds fired, I think, actually strike something once or twice, and they are highly trained,” said Bill Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner.

Concealed Carry on Campus envisions a female student being saved from an armed assailant by a freshman with a concealed weapon permit. I see a well-intentioned kid with a pistol trying to intervene in a scary situation and accidentally shooting the victim.

And, somehow, it’ll all turn out to be the health care reform law’s fault.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Guns, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, National Rifle Association, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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