mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“How To Stop Government”: A Republican Field Guide To Obstructionist Techniques

In a recent Pew Poll, 80 percent of respondents said the president and Republican leaders were not working together to address important issues — and, by a two-to-one margin, said the G.O.P. was more to blame for gridlock.

Despite their minority status in the Senate, the people on the right side of the aisle have managed to muck up the works. Their obstructionist repertoire is so extensive that you almost need a field guide to their delaying techniques.

Here’s a start on that guide.

Filibuster Abuse: The practice of halting Senate deliberation is an old one, practiced by both parties, but the current Republican caucus has taken it to new heights. They have filibustered an unprecedented number of President Obama’s nominees. The District Court for Washington, D.C., perhaps the most important appeals court in the land, has four of its 11 seats vacant. The last time the Senate confirmed a judge was in 2006. The Republicans have filibustered all of Mr. Obama’s nominees because Republicans simply don’t want him to appoint any judges to a currently conservative court, which rules on appeals involving federal regulatory agencies, and which has exclusive jurisdiction over national security matters.

Boycotting: Also known as taking your marbles and going home, the most recent example came on Thursday, when Republicans refused to attend a meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee, thereby blocking the nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. They claimed they were not completely satisfied with her answers to the more than 1,000 questions they dumped on her in the confirmation process. In addition to stymying Mr. Obama, holding up her nomination has the great virtue of hamstringing the E.P.A., which the right thinks shouldn’t exist in the first place. And that leads us to the next G.O.P. tactic:

Denial of services: Some government agencies require a certain number of members, or a permanent chief, to operate. If the Republicans don’t like those agencies, they simply make sure those positions never get filled. For instance, the National Labor Relations Board, which Republicans loathe because it protects workers, requires a quorum to take action. So the Republicans refused to confirm Mr. Obama’s nominees. Then they held fake pro-forma sessions during their vacations to try to prevent him from making recess appointments. He did that anyway and the Republican-packed D.C. appeals court (see above) ruled that the appointments were illegitimate — which could invalidate scores of decisions. The Republicans are playing this same trick with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in response to the wildly reckless actions that led to the financial collapse of 2008.

Investigate again and again and again: When Darrell Issa, took over the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after the G.O.P. won the House majority in 2010, he said he wanted to hold “seven hearings a week times 40 weeks.” His supposed reason was that Mr. Obama is “corrupt.” That’s a frequent Republican talking point, but it’s so obviously ridiculous that I wonder if they actually believe it. In any case, the real reason is that endless “investigative” hearings cause trouble and distract administration officials from their actual jobs. The hearings on Benghazi, for example, have revealed none of the impeachable offenses that Republicans claimed would come to light. They have kept Congress and the administration focused on what happened in Libya eight months ago, which was awful, rather than on what is happening there today, which is awful.

Refuse to negotiate: Republicans in Congress used to complain that the Senate Democrats hadn’t produced a budget in the last four years. But recently the Democrats did just that. So the Republicans abandoned their old talking point and are now refusing to form a conference committee to reconcile the Senate budget with the House budget.

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, May 10, 2013

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Tsunami Of Anti-Union Legislation”: The GOP’s State And National Assault On Labor Rights

The past 15 months have seen a remarkable assault by the GOP on federal labor rights.

Republicans have introduced numerous bills designed to undermine the National Labor Relations Act, all with wonderfully deceptive names suggesting they would strengthen the rights of ordinary workers: Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, Employee Rights Act, Jobs Protection Act, Employee Workplace Freedom Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, National Right to Work Act, Truth in Employment Act, National Labor Relations Reorganization Act, and others.

Republicans on the federal level have also attempted to defund and abolish the National Labor Relations Board, subjected its Democratic members to repeated subpoenas and requests for information, protested President Obama’s recess appointments to the board, joined lawsuits by corporate and anti-union organizations and threatened Congressional Review Acts – which could happen within weeks – to block the implementation of new board rules streamlining union certification elections and requiring notice posting on federal labor rights.

Rarely, if ever, has the board, and the rights it enforces, been subjected to such relentless attacks. And the attacks continue. While impressive, this assault on federal labor rights pales in comparison to what has been happening – occasionally in full view, but mostly with little notice – at the state level. Almost everyone knows about the 2011 legislation stripping public sector workers of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, and Indiana’s 2012 “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation, which outlaws union security agreements.

However, the sheer number of anti-union bills supported by GOP-controlled legislatures demonstrates the breadth and depth of the party’s anti-unionism. So what is happening in the states?

In addition to Indiana, at least 18 other states have considered RTW measures. South Carolina and Tennessee passed bills strengthening RTW legislation that has been on the books for six decades, while another RTW state, Virginia, attempted to write RTW into its constitution. And last week, the New Hampshire House passed a RTW bill identical to one vetoed last year by the state’s Democratic governor. Other states that may act on RTW this year — sometimes over the wishes of the GOP establishment — through legislation or ballot initiatives include Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

In addition to high-profile bills in Wisconsin and Ohio, at least 13 other states have considered legislation that would eliminate or restrict public sector collective bargaining. New Jersey eliminated public sector bargaining over health benefits, Oklahoma outlawed collective bargaining for municipal employees, and Tennessee replaced bargaining for public school teachers with “collaborative conferencing.” And at least 14 states have considered legislation that would ban public employers from deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, thereby making it difficult for unions to finance their basic activities. Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a measure prohibiting public schools from deducting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

Many Republican legislatures have promoted bills that, while not directly attacking labor rights, are clearly intended to weaken unions, including unions in the building trades and public schools. 14 states have introduced legislation restricting Project Labor Agreements, and 11 have bills attacking prevailing wage laws, both of which protect building trades standards.

At least 28 states have considered charter school and voucher bills that would weaken public school unions, and others have bills privatizing most schools services, along with bills privatizing transportation, water supply, port authorities, airport security, liquor distribution, prisons and prison medical services, Medicaid delivery, state park vendors, kindergarten development and evaluation, and every municipal service imaginable.

At least 10 states have introduced so-called “paycheck protection” measures, which are designed to place strict limits on the use of union dues money for political purposes, while placing few, if any, restrictions on corporate political spending. Alabama, Arizona and North Carolina passed paycheck measures in 2011 – though all three bills have been challenged in the courts – while California and New Jersey have upcoming paycheck ballot initiatives.

Deception dominates in the messaging on state bills. California’s paycheck ballot initiative is ludicrously misnamed “Stop Special Interest Money Now.” Backers of the bill, the ultra-conservative Lincoln Club of Orange County, co-produced “Hillary: The Movie,” which led to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The Lincoln Club welcomed Citizens United as a “victory for free speech,” but now claims that its measure is a balanced effort to remove all special interest money from state elections, to the extent allowed by federal law. In reality, it would undermine the ability of unions to engage in core political activities but have almost no impact on corporate political spending.

This type of obfuscation is central to Republicans’ anti-union strategy. If the party were unable to hide behind deceptive messaging, it would be exposed as a front for the American Legislative Exchange Council and other extreme organizations.

And finally: not one new job has been created by this tsunami of anti-union legislation.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Labor, State Legislatures | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Partisan Morass”: Crippling The Right To Organize

Unless something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union. Two of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects collective bargaining, are vacant, and on Dec. 31, the term of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whom President Obama named to the board last year through a recess appointment, will expire. Without a quorum, the Supreme Court ruled last year, the board cannot decide cases.

What would this mean?

Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

If this nightmare comes to pass, it will represent the culmination of three decades of Republican resistance to the board — an unwillingness to recognize the fundamental right of workers to band together, if they wish, to seek better pay and working conditions. But Mr. Obama is also partly to blame; in trying to install partisan stalwarts on the board, as his predecessors did, he is all but guaranteeing that the impasse will continue. On Wednesday, he announced his intention to nominate two pro-union lawyers to the board, though there is no realistic chance that either can gain Senate confirmation anytime soon.

For decades after its creation in 1935, the board was a relatively fair arbiter between labor and capital. It has protected workers’ right to organize by, among other things, overseeing elections that decide on union representation. Employers may not engage in unfair labor practices, like intimidating organizers and discriminating against union members. Unions are prohibited, too, from doing things like improperly pressuring workers to join.

The system began to run into trouble in the 1970s. Employers found loopholes that enabled them to delay the board’s administrative proceedings, sometimes for years. Reforms intended to speed up the board’s resolution of disputes have repeatedly foundered in Congress.

The precipitous decline of organized labor — principally a result of economic forces, not legal ones — cemented unions’ dependence on the board, despite its imperfections. Meanwhile, business interests, represented by an increasingly conservative Republican Party, became more assertive in fighting unions.

The board became dysfunctional. Traditionally, members were career civil servants or distinguished lawyers and academics from across the country. But starting in the Reagan era, the board’s composition began to tilt toward Washington insiders like former Congressional staff members and former lobbyists.

Starting with a compromise that allowed my confirmation in 1994, the board’s members and general counsel have been nominated in groups. In contrast to the old system, the new “batching” meant that nominees were named as a package acceptable to both parties. As a result, the board came to be filled with rigid ideologues. Some didn’t even have a background in labor law.

Under President George W. Bush, the board all but stopped using its discretion to obtain court orders against employers before the board’s own, convoluted, administrative process was completed — a power that, used fairly, is a crucial protection for workers. In 2007, in what has been called the September Massacre, the board issued rulings that made it easier for employers to block union organizing and harder for illegally fired employees to collect back pay. Democratic senators then blocked Mr. Bush from making recess appointments to the board, as President Bill Clinton had done. For 27 months, until March 2010, the board operated with only two members; in June 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that it needed at least three to issue decisions.

Under Mr. Obama, the board has begun to take enforcement more seriously, by pursuing the court orders that the board under Mr. Bush had abandoned. Sadly, though, the board has also been plagued by unnecessary controversy. In April, the acting general counsel issued a complaint over Boeing’s decision to build airplanes at a nonunion plant in South Carolina, following a dispute with Boeing machinists in Washington State. Although the complaint was dropped last week after the machinists reached a new contract agreement with Boeing, the controversy reignited Republican threats to cut financing for the board.

In my view, the complaint against Boeing was legally flawed, but the threats to cut the board’s budget represent unacceptable political interference. The shenanigans continue: last month, before the board tentatively approved new proposals that would expedite unionization elections, the sole Republican member threatened to resign, which would have again deprived the board of a quorum.

Mr. Obama needs to make this an election-year issue; if the board goes dark in January, he should draw attention to Congressional obstructionism during the campaign and defend the board’s role in protecting employees and employers. A new vision for labor-management cooperation must include not only a more powerful board, but also a less partisan one, with members who are independent and neutral experts. Otherwise, the partisan morass will continue, and American workers will suffer.

 

By: William B. Gould, Op_Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 16, 2011

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Election 2012 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Things All the GOP Candidates Agree On And They’re Terrifying

By the very nature of political journalism, the attention of those covering the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest tends to be focused on areas of disagreement between the candidates, as well as on the policy positions and messages they are eager to use against Barack Obama. But there are a host of other issues where the Republican candidates are in too much agreement to create a lot of controversy during debates or gin up excitement in the popular media. Areas of agreement, after all, rarely provoke shock or drive readership. But the fact that the Republican Party has reached such a stable consensus on such a great number of far-right positions is in many ways a more shocking phenomenon than the rare topic on which they disagree. Here are just a few areas of consensus on which the rightward lurch of the GOP during the last few years has become remarkably apparent:

1. Hard money. With the exception of Ron Paul’s serial campaigns and a failed 1988 effort by Jack Kemp, it’s been a very long time since Republican presidential candidates flirted with the gold standard or even talked about currency polices. Recent assaults by 2012 candidates on Ben Bernanke and demands for audits of the Fed reflect a consensus in favor of deflationary monetary policies and elimination of any Fed mission other than preventing inflation. When combined with unconditional GOP hostility to stimulative fiscal policies—another new development—this position all but guarantees that a 2012 Republican victory will help usher in a longer and deeper recession than would otherwise be the case.

2. Anti-unionism. While national Republican candidates have always perceived the labor movement as a partisan enemy, they haven’t generally championed overtly anti-labor legislation. Last Thursday, however, they all backed legislation to strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prevent plant relocations designed to retaliate against legally protected union activities (power the NLRB is exercising in the famous Boeing case involving presidential primary hotspot South Carolina). Meanwhile, at least two major candidates, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, have endorsed a national right-to-work law, and Romney and Perry have also encouraged states like New Hampshire to adopt right-to-work laws.

3. Radical anti-environmentalism. Until quite recently, Republicans running for president paid lip service to environmental protection as a legitimate national priority, typically differentiating themselves from Democrats by favoring less regulatory enforcement approaches and more careful assessment of economic costs and market mechanisms. The new mood in the GOP is perhaps best exemplified by Herman Cain’s proposal at the most recent presidential debate that “victims” of the Environmental Protection Agency (apparently, energy industry or utility executives) should dominate a commission to review environmental regulations—an idea quickly endorsed by Rick Perry. In fact, this approach might represent the middle-of-the-road within the party, given the many calls by other Republicans (including presidential candidates Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich) for the outright abolition of EPA.

4.Radical anti-abortion activism. Gone are the days when at least one major Republican candidate (e.g., Rudy Giuliani in 2008) could be counted on to appeal to pro-choice Republicans by expressing some reluctance to embrace an immediate abolition of abortion rights. Now the only real intramural controversy on abortion has mainly surrounded a sweeping pledge proffered to candidates by the Susan B. Anthony List—one that would bind their executive as well as judicial appointments, and require an effort to cut off federal funds to institutions only tangentially involved in abortions. Despite this fact, only Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have refused to sign. Both, however, have reiterated their support for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion forever (though Romney has said that’s not achievable at present).

5. No role for government in the economy. Most remarkably, the 2012 candidate field appears to agree that there is absolutely nothing the federal government can do to improve the economy—other than disabling itself as quickly as possible. Entirely missing are the kind of modest initiatives for job training, temporary income support, or fiscal relief for hard-pressed state and local governments that Republicans in the past have favored as a conservative alternative to big government counter-cyclical schemes. Also missing are any rhetorical gestures towards the public-sector role in fostering a good economic climate, whether through better schools, basic research, infrastructure projects, and other public investments (the very term has been demonized as synonymous with irresponsible spending).

Add all this up, and it’s apparent the Republican Party has become identified with a radically conservative world-view in which environmental regulations and collective bargaining by workers have strangled the economy; deregulation, federal spending cuts, and deflation of the currency are the only immediate remedies; and the path back to national righteousness will require restoration of the kinds of mores—including criminalization of abortion—that prevailed before things started going to hell in the 1960s. That Republicans hardly even argue about such things anymore makes the party’s transformation that much more striking—if less noticeable to the news media and the population at large.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, The New Republic, September 19, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Climate Change, Collective Bargaining, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Unions | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: