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“Change Requires More Than Righteous Anger”: How Sanders Can Avoid Becoming The Ted Cruz Of The Left

As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, a lot of people are beginning to talk about what Bernie Sanders should do now. The more interesting question is: what happens to the “movement” he has inspired once this election is over. That is what Brian Beutler attempted to address. Here is a summary of his advice:

Sanders must keep the apparatus he’s built largely intact, but refocused on lobbying for progressive policies and promoting and financing progressive candidates—and making establishment Democrats fear the price of opposing both.

That sounds like good advice to me, with one caveat: don’t become the Ted Cruz of the left.

After the election in November, Bernie Sanders will go back to being the Senator from Vermont. Unless he wants to give up that seat – he will be working from inside the system. As Beutler goes on to point out, if Democrats win control of the Senate, Sanders will be in line to be chair of the Budget Committee. Using that position to advance his progressive agenda means playing the “establishment” game. Unless he wants to become a full-time activist working from outside the system (which would be a viable option), here are some things he could do:

  1. Develop a plan for universal health care coverage that is more than simply throwing numbers at a page that don’t add up. In other words, develop a plan that would actually work.
  2. Submit the Rebuild America Act to address this country’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.
  3. Work with Senate colleague Sherrod Brown to develop a serious proposal to break up the big banks.

I could go on with other things Sanders has advocated for in this primary, but perhaps you get my drift. As a candidate, Sanders has been good at naming and describing problems. Where he has been weak is in developing serious plans to address them. Energizing his movement to maintain the pressure for more progressive policies means providing the country with actual progressive policies. Sanders could then mobilize the army of his young supporters to take up the cause and fight for them. As President Obama said at Howard University:

You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.

The alternative is to become the Ted Cruz of the left – always disrupting but never offering anything constructive that could actually change things.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 10, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Budget Gimmickry”: Republicans Vote To Hide Costs Of Repealing Obamacare In Budget

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee voted Thursday to shield attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act from objections that it would add to the government’s budget deficit.

The budget resolution for 2016 includes what are known as reconciliation instructions that tell several congressional committees to come up with ways to undo Obamacare. Such reconciliation measures only require 51 votes to pass in the Senate.

But the spending plan also includes language that allows lawmakers to raise what are known as budget points of order against any legislation that would add more than $5 billion to the deficit, and block it. According to the last estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, repealing Obamcare would add $210 billion to the deficit.

That would seem to make it likely that any Obamacare repeal effort would run afoul of a point of order, which takes 60 votes to surmount. So, later in the resolution, it exempts an attempt to repeal Obamacare from those points of order.

“What we have in this budget is a very interesting situation,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who offered an amendment to make the deficit rules apply to Obamacare repeal.

“We have a point of order in the budget for anything that adds to the deficit, but we have a section that specifically excludes the Affordable Care Act from that,” Stabenow said. “So think about it. This budget is conceding the fact that the Affordable Care Act has reduced the deficit, and repealing the law would increase the deficit.”

Stabenow also alluded a related problem the GOP budget ignores: At the same time that it instructs Congress to come up with a repeal, it continues to count all the revenue that the Affordable Care Act is expected to raise — and which the government wouldn’t collect if the law is dismantled.

“You can’t rig the rules on both sides,” Stabenow said. “That’s not fair. I would argue that’s really budget gimmickry. I think it’s important if you are going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, you have to step up and assume the consequences of that.”

Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) did not dispute Stabenow’s claim, but seemed to think it was irrelevant, since even if a point of order applies to a repeal measure, it still could be overridden if 60 senators vote to do so. That’s the same filibuster-proof number it takes to pass controversial legislation.

And while using budget reconciliation instructions prevents filibusters — so something can pass with just 51 votes — many parts of the Affordable Care Act could not be legally included in such a measure. And even if they could, it would take a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto that would be certain to follow.

“I think that probably any repeal is probably going to take at least 60 votes, and probably 67 votes,” Enzi said.

Still, Stabenow countered that her amendment was useful in making clear what was actually happening in the name of “honest budgeting.”

Republicans opposed Stabenow’s amendment on a party-line vote, 12 to 10, and passed the budget by the same tally.

The measure is expected to be on the Senate floor next week.

 

By: Michael McAuliff, The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 19 , 2015

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Federal Budget, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

112th Congress Is One Of The Least Productive In Years

Freshman Republican Sen Kelly Ayotte is often asked what surprises her most about serving in the esteemed upper chamber of Congress. The earnest, 43-year-old conservative from New Hampshire has come up with an uncomplicated reply:

“I thought that we would vote on a lot more bills.”

She most recently offered this answer from her Senate office at 3:45 on a Thursday afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had just announced that the Senate was done voting for the week. Senators wouldn’t be needed until the following Tuesday.

In the lobby outside Ayotte’s office, a television tuned to C-SPAN was showing an empty Senate chamber. In offices up and down the hallway, aides were booking flights home.

So it goes these days on Capitol Hill, a place of many headlines and much drama but not a whole lot of legislating.

The 112th Congress is on pace to be one of the least productive in recent memory — as measured by votes taken, bills made into laws, nominees approved. By most of those metrics, this crowd is underperforming even the “do-nothing Congress” of 1948, as Harry Truman dubbed it. The hot-temper era of Clinton impeachment in the 1990s saw more bills become law.

There is no shortage of explanations for the apparent lack of legislative success. Political observers see hyperpartisanship and perpetual campaigning that makes once-routine steps politically perilous.

Experts cite the rise of a brand of conservatism that aims for a government that governs least. Historians note that it’s not unusual for Congress to take a breather after a period of hyperactivity like the one Washington completed last year.

Lawmakers have a long list of politically tinged reasons: Republicans who control the House blame Democratic leaders in the Senate for refusing to hold votes that might prove problematic for members up for election next year; Democratic leaders in the Senate blame Republicans in both chambers for not working with them on legislation that has a shot of winning a presidential signature.

Perhaps the only group seeing a bright side is the Democratic minority in the House, which supports virtually none of the bills voted on in that chamber but doesn’t have to worry about them ever becoming law.

President Obama called out Congress when he argued last week that members have to “be here” to make progress on its top priority: negotiating a deal on the debt that can pass the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate.

But it’s not necessarily time spent in Washington where this Congress is falling behind. It’s how little it accomplishes when it’s here.

“I put it this way: no harm done yet,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills). “But nothing accomplished yet — with a lot of ominous things that still may happen.”

To be sure, lawmakers are grappling with big issues, such as the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the government’s debt ceiling. Action on that front, however, has been behind closed doors in on-again off-again budget negotiations. Nearly all other major priorities — tax reform or a 2012 budget — have been delayed while lawmakers work on a deal.

And so the legislative trickle has slowed to a drip. From January until the end of May, the last date for which comparable statistics are available, 16 bills had become law — compared with 50 during that period last year, or 28 in 2007, also a time of divided government.

The Senate has taken 84 “yea and nay” votes and the House 112, roughly half the number as in 2007. The Senate by the end of May had confirmed just over half the administration’s nominees; recent congresses typically have been near the end of the list by this point.

The bills that have passed this year largely have been extensions of expiring laws. Also on this year’s list was a must-pass deal to keep the government from shutting down, which essentially was a piece of unfinished business from the previous Congress.

Then there were three laws naming public buildings, a resolution appointing a member of the Smithsonian Institution and one extending the life of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission.

The inertia might be best observed at the Senate Budget Committee.

When Ayotte was named to the committee after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) abruptly resigned in April, it was a coveted “get” for a conservative who won office by promising to cut spending. She came out of her first planning meeting with a list of proposals, only to hear Reid say Democrats would not introduce a budget until after the deficit talks.

“I got appointed. I was excited about it. I had one good meeting and then it was done. That’s been my experience on that committee,” Ayotte said. The committee has not met since April 5.

But it’s not just Democrats putting a drag on legislative activity. Republicans on Thursday boycotted a hearing on a series of free trade deals, derailing what was considered a bipartisan effort.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) held his own protest to highlight the Democrats’ missing budget. Although Democrats say a budget plan is coming next week, Johnson used a procedural move to keep Reid from scheduling a vote on a resolution authorizing military involvement in Libya — the rare issue likely to find bipartisan agreement.

The “tea party” freshman, who says he’s used to working in business “where you focus on accomplishing things,” said he realized he was stalling “a very important issue.”

“But the fact of the matter is it simply doesn’t address the fact that we’re bankrupting this nation,” he said.

Much of this has been taken in stride by folks who’ve been around for a while.

“If you’re not comfortable with delay, frustration and impatience, get out of the Senate,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “It’s the nature of the institution, but I think we’ve taken it to an art form.”

At the other end of the building, the House isn’t exactly breaking records.

The 50 bills it has passed in the first five months of 2011 represent the lowest such number in more than 15 years. Republicans’ anti-Washington rhetoric translated into a schedule intended to keep lawmakers out of Washington. The result has been fewer days in session and fewer votes.

Reid, borrowing the critique usually aimed at him, recently complained that Senate bills — a patent reform measure and reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration — had fallen into the “big black hole” of the House.

In fact, each side is piling bills on the other’s doorstep while they wait for a deal to come out of the debt talks.

That package could prove that legislative activity doesn’t necessarily correspond to substance.

“Obviously, if they reach some kind of deal that results in a sweeping change in the scope of government and the tax rates, they don’t have to do much else to go down as a consequential Congress,” said Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. “Most everywhere else, their influence is puny.”

With an Aug. 2 deadline, it may take much of the summer to find out. After that, both bodies leave for a long summer break and return after Labor Day.

 

By: Kathleen Hennessey, Staff Writer, Chicago Tribune, July 3, 2011

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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