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Republican House Bills: A Glimpse Into The Tea Party’s Vision For America

If the House ran America, what would America look like?

It would no longer have a far-reaching health-care law. The House voted to repeal that legislation in January.

It would no longer have federal limits on greenhouse gases. The House voted to ax them in April.

And it would not have three government programs for homeowners who are in trouble on their mortgages. The House voted to end them all.

These and many other changes are included in an ambitious slate of more than 80 bills that have passed since Republicans took control of the chamber this year.

Most of these measures will die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Still, they are a revealing kind of vision statement — the first evidence of how a tea-party-influenced GOP would like to reshape the country.

That vision is aimed at dismantling some Democratic priorities. The GOP’s philosophy holds that paring back an expensive and heavy-handed government bureaucracy would help restore the country’s financial footing and give private businesses the freedom to grow and create jobs.

After seven months, it is still only half a vision.

On major issues such as health care, climate change and bad mortgages, the House has affirmed that fixes are needed — if it can ever manage to repeal the old ones.

It hasn’t said exactly what those changes should be.

“The Republican Party is sort of united in terms of what they’re against. But there’s not a great deal of consensus right now in terms of what they’re for,” said Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and an expert on health-care reform and recent GOP history.

This month, a divided Congress finally staggered into its summer recess. Its business has been split between the terrifyingly urgent — including standoffs that threatened a government shutdown and a national debt default — and the purely theoretical.

The theoretical part has come because neither the House nor the Senate is likely to approve big ideas dreamed up by the other. The Democrat-held Senate has reacted to this by withdrawing into legislative hibernation.

House Republicans have instead been passing bills that tell a story — about the country they want but can’t quite get.

“The new House Republican majority was voted into office to change the way Washington does business and make the government accountable to the American people once again. Our agenda has reflected these goals,” said Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.).

But even within the Republican ranks, there is a desire for more details about the party’s vision for replacing Democratic policies.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) said the GOP must put forward its own solutions on issues such as health care, job creation and mortgage assistance. He said he is not convinced that there is a need to take on climate change in the same way.

“Being the party of ‘no’ . . . is an appropriate response” in some cases, Gowdy said. “It’s not appropriate when you’ve been extensively critical of someone else’s ideas” and have none to replace them, he said.

“For substance reasons, and for credibility reasons, we also need to have a comprehensive . . . alternative that goes beyond saying, ‘Your plan is bad,’ ” Gowdy said.

The best-known part of the House’s vision has to do with spending. The chamber passed a budget that calls for a Medicare overhaul that would force new recipients to buy private insurance after 2022. It also passed, with five Democratic backers, a bill that demanded a balanced budget amendment: essentially, a spending limit written into the Constitution.

But the House’s measures have gone far beyond the budget.

It has passed legislation to forbid new energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs and to punish shining a laser pointer at an airplane in flight. It voted to take away federal funding for National Public Radio and for public financing of presidential campaigns.

The House also took a stand against President Obama on the military campaign in Libya, rejecting a motion to approve U.S. involvement. And it voted to rein in Environmental Protection Agency efforts against “mountaintop-removal coal mines” by requiring the EPA to defer to decisions by state regulators.

On three major issues, the House seemed to acknowledge that simply repealing a Democratic idea might not be enough — and that it did not have its own solutions.

On Jan. 19, for instance, 242 Republicans and three Democrats voted to repeal the landmark health-care law.

In place of the legislation, Republicans had said they would craft their own solutions for problems involving high costs and the denial of coverage for preexisting conditions. Their slogan, outlined in last fall’s Pledge to America, was “Repeal and Replace.”

No replacement has occurred.

A bill that would limit liability in malpractice lawsuits has passed in committee. Other ideas are being developed, aides said.

On climate change, the EPA is requiring larger power plants and industrial facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to obtain new permits.

But many in Congress worried that the effort would drive up energy prices and kill jobs. So in April, 236 House Republicans and 19 Democrats voted to make the EPA stop in its tracks.

In place of regulations, they approved only a vaguely worded “sense of the Congress” about climate change.

“There is established scientific concern over warming of the climate system,” the bill says. It adds that Congress should attack the problem “by developing policies that do not adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies, and employment.”

But how? When? The measure doesn’t say.

And it doesn’t need to, said Tim Phillips, president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. He said his group thinks that simply repealing this legislation — and the health-care law — is enough for now.

“The big-government assault [has been] so damaging to the economy and the government. They’re doing the right thing by just trying to stop and reverse,” Phillips said.

Environmental groups have said that the House’s bill would leave the nation powerless to fight an escalating global problem.

“They clearly aren’t going to pass any legislation themselves that would address that pollution,” said Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The House also has voted to eliminate three federal programs meant to aid homeowners in danger of foreclosure. Two help modify loans to create lower payments. The third gives no-interest loans to borrowers who are in trouble. All have been criticized for moving too slowly and helping too few.

In March, the House decided to do away with them. The Congressional Budget Office said that doing so could save taxpayers $2.4 billion.

“None of the programs . . . have been successful,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), wrote in a statement.

By: David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post, August 17, 2011

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Climate Change, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Energy, Environment, Foreclosures, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Greenhouse Gases, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Politics, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bin Laden Death Photo Coverage Is Media’s New Birther Moment

On Tuesday morning, counterterrorism official John Brennan was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep  about the death of Osama bin Laden. For about eight minutes, listeners were  treated to a serious and in-depth exploration of the circumstances surrounding  bin Laden’s discovery and demise.

But then, right at the  end, Inskeep couldn’t help himself. “In a few seconds, Mr. Brennan, why haven’t  you released photos of Osama bin Laden?” Inskeep asked. Over the final  minute of the interview, he repeated that important question four times.

And you couldn’t help  thinking: Here we go again.

Wasn’t it just, like,  hours ago that the media had assumed a posture of deep introspection about  their role in fueling outlandish conspiracy theories?

On one hand, there were  people like Shepard Smith of Fox News urging the media to “look in the mirror”  because questions about President Obama’s birthplace were “a load of crap” and  journalists “knew it from the very beginning.” (Amen.) On the other, there  was Bob Garfield of NPR’s On the Media arguing that the attention paid  by the media to Donald Trump’s birther claims was necessary to help the public  distinguish between a “carnival barker” and a “responsible leader.” (Oh, I get  it: Loons raise loony questions, the media repeats them over and over  again, and, in so doing, exposes them to an audience far larger than the loons  ever could have dreamed of reaching on their own, and thus we need the media to  help us identify the loons. Wow, what an indispensible service.) No consensus,  perhaps, but at least they were grappling with the question.

Not anymore, evidently.

Just  hours after President Obama addressed the nation, no less than J. Michael Waller  posted a blog entry opining that bin Laden should be displayed naked in lower  Manhattan, then chopped into bits and dumped into the New York City  sewers because while he may be dead “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Who’s J. Michael Waller you ask? Who cares! Questions have been raised!  The public needs help identifying the carnival barkers! Summon the media!

So, there was Inskeep  pressing Brennan. The Chicago Sun Times editorialized that a photo should  be released to stop the conspiracy theories. The Associated Press moved a  story headlined “Wanted: Visual Proof that the U.S. got him.” (Though you might  reasonably ask why, given that the proof detailed in the story included DNA  evidence, photographic identification, bin Laden’s wife apparently calling out  to him by name during the firefight, and “[t]ellingly” an al Qaeda spokesman  calling bin Laden “a martyr” and offering “no challenge to the U.S. account of  his death.” Mighty suspicious!)

In fairness, there are  differences between the birther stories and whether the United States should release a  photo of bin Laden. To be sure, the latter has actual foreign policy and  national security implications, and, now that the administration has decided not  to release a photo, it may be that serious issues, rather than the increasingly  hairbrained ideas of conspiracy theorists, will drive the media’s coverage  but … I’ll believe it when I see it.

If the media would like us  to believe it has serious, as opposed to sensationalistic, intentions when it  covers a story like this, the nature of the coverage has to change.  Raising a baseless charge again and again, day after day, and concluding that  you’ve done your job if “both sides” of the story are represented does everyone  a remarkable disservice. The reason: It gives the media’s imprimatur of  legitimacy to a charge that is baseless, and it leaves the impression that  there are two sides to an issue that is, in fact, indisputably settled.

Instead, if the media is  going to give such issues any coverage at all, it should turn its camera in the  opposite direction, focusing on the people who cling to preposterous beliefs  and asking what that tells us about them, our culture, and our country.  That may be a worthy journalistic pursuit, but we’ve seen very little of it.

Of course, there may be a  bright side to all of this: The secret to getting media coverage has been  revealed.

Therefore, I would like to  announce the following: I believe the moon is made of elephants.

Media: Come and get me.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Journalists, Media, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Waterloo: Where The GOP Sees Demons To Attack, Voters See Themselves

Wisconsin Democrats are filing recall petitions that could result in the Wisconsin Senate being controlled by Democrats. Summer 2011 will bring white-hot midterm elections and a potential Wisconsin Waterloo for the GOP that is spreading to other states and could shift the tectonic plate of American politics.

In Wisconsin, Ohio and other states a powerful backlash is brewing from giant swaths of voters who failed to turn out for Democrats or regret their votes for Republicans in 2010. They feel demonized by GOP attacks and financially threatened by GOP policies. They will be highly motivated to vote.

Wisconsin Democrats could win the three state Senate seats necessary to turn control of the Wisconsin Senate to the Dems, because voters do not want political holy wars against teachers, public workers or anyone else. They do not want fanatics in politics, fiats by government, incendiary partisanship or crusades against collective bargaining, which voters widely believe is a valued part of the American system.

Recently the Polish trade union Solidarity, one of the great voices for freedom in modern history, endorsed the Wisconsin workers and condemned the attacks on them by GOP Gov. Scott Walker. More voters agree with Solidarity than with Wisconsin Republicans.

In Ohio, the widely unpopular Republican governor, John Kasich, who was caught on tape verbally abusing a police officer who gave him a ticket, has now added both police and firefighters to the list of enemies he attacked in legislation. Most Americans view firefighters and police as heroes who risk their lives to save their neighbors, not as demons to attack or targets to have their financial security threatened.

In Washington, the GOP has added the venerable AARP to its enemies list. AARP has long represented tens of millions of seniors with honor. For Republicans to launch a Nixonian attack against them is an act of political stupidity that will not be well-received by senior voters.

Republicans wage holy war against National Public Radio, one of the fairest media in the nation, and one that provides vital service to small-town America and includes many Republicans among its fans.

Republicans threaten to shut down the government to pursue their war against Planned Parenthood, which is supported by many Republican women, while they attack a long list of programs important to mainstream American women. Many Republicans oppose efforts to achieve pay equity for women.

House Republicans even want to cut programs that help homeless veterans, cuts that Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speak eloquently against.

The Texas GOP is likely to attempt to cheat Hispanics out of representation in Congress through a gerrymander similar to that once orchestrated by disgraced former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay. Many Republicans use tactics on immigration that are anathema to many Hispanics.

House Republicans will be widely blamed for any government shutdown or economic collapse from a failure to extend the debt ceiling if they pursue their partisan and ideological vendettas and refuse to accept 50-50 offers from Democrats.

A Wisconsin Waterloo is a real danger to Republicans. Where the GOP sees demons to attack, many voters see themselves. 

By: Brent Budowsky, The Hill, April 4, 2011

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, States, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republican Budget Cuts Will Come Back to Bite Them

Something about the Republican dance with populism these days reminds me of one of those classic Twilight Zone episodes: Aliens come down to earth. They want to help us! (They even have a book called To Serve Man!) Wait a minute … they want to eat us! (It’s a cookbook.) From there things take a decidedly downward turn.

One suspects that Republicans may be in for a similarly demoralizing experience. Here’s why:

When NPR asked Sen. Jim DeMint this week why Republicans were pressing to reduce Social Security benefits (a subject that had long been considered off limits for politicians interested in re-election), he answered, “It is politically dangerous, but I think the mood of the country is different than it has been [at] any time in my lifetime.” The “mood” he’s talking about is the so-called “new populism,” the voter anger expressed everywhere from Tea Party rallies to voting booths in 2010.

When you think of traditional populism, it evokes images of regular people rising up against a remote, usually corporate, elite that’s run roughshod over their rights. Farmers and working people taking on runaway industrialists and robber barons. Traditionally, Democrats have been most receptive to these kinds of appeals. In response, they’ve pushed government to enact programs aimed at protecting those most vulnerable to the predations of more powerful interests.

For the new populists, government is the remote elite. Instead of unsafe working conditions or unfair lending practices, they’re protesting the ills of government spending and overreach, the wasting of taxpayer dollars. And if their efforts undo the kinds of programs that a more traditional brand of populism might embrace—those aimed at helping the less advantaged make their way—so be it. It’s populism Republican style. And Republicans look like they’re going to ride it for all its worth.

But what happens when you start cutting programs that are in and of themselves something of a check on potential populist anger? That’s one way to look at government programs: There’s a need that’s not being addressed, and rather than let it ferment, government, however clumsily, tries to fill the gap. Sometimes the proposed gap filler is ridiculous (Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s “Department of Peace” springs to mind). Other times, it becomes part of the very fabric of our country.

Take public schooling. Public schools reflect a societal judgment that children should have a chance to succeed without regards to wealth or socioeconomic background. To help get them there, we don’t give every kid a million dollars and say “have at it,” we offer them a tuition-free classroom with a curriculum designed to put them on an equal footing with everyone else when they enter the workforce. What they do from there is up to them.

It doesn’t always work out, of course. Some schools are better than others. So are some teachers. But wherever our various debates about education reform end up, public schools reflect a deeply held American value: that there are some public goods (like an educated workforce) that we, as a society, believe are worth individual (taxpayer) costs. That seems to have become lost in the current debate.

Take another look at what’s underway in Wisconsin. A centerpiece of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is a $1 billion cut in education funding. That’s a big number that may sound appealing to people worked up about government spending today, but in September when they send their kids to schools with classroom sizes twice as big as a year before, they may begin to remember why they thought it was a good idea to fund education in the first place. Presto! New populists transformed into traditional populists. Only now their target has shifted from Democrats to Republicans. And you can imagine the same phenomenon playing out across a whole host of issues, from Social Security to shared revenue.

Republicans may have momentum on their side at the moment, but there’s a long way to go in the various budget battles playing out across the country. To be sure, Democrats can overplay their hand, too, by opposing any kind of spending restraint.

But one way or the other, populism is sure to play a role in determining how it all turns out. Which strain of populism wins? For Republicans, the answer is kind of like the difference between To Serve Man (they’re helping us!) and To Serve Man (oh wait, they’re eating us). And they had better hope they’ve got it right.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, March 17, 2011

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Federal Budget, Politics, Populism, Republicans, Social Security, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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