Dems React to Boston Marathon Bombing with Sequester Talk
POLITICO reports, “With the Boston Marathon bombings less than 24 hours old, some on Capitol Hill are beginning to say the attack shows why Congress should’ve stopped automatic spending cuts from taking hold in March. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), responding to a question at a Tuesday morning press conference, said the bombings are ‘clearly another place where it demonstrates why having the ability to address security concerns is important.’ … Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that the first responders working Monday aren’t sheltered from cuts. ‘We have to send you less money to help your first responders,’ Becerra said. A White House official said the sequester cuts ‘will not hamper’ the response to the bombing, but decried the long-term effect.”
Dems Relating Boston Bombings to Sequester “Smacks of Political Opportunism”
Associated Editor of The Atlantic David A. Graham commented on Democrats relating the Boston bombings to the sequester. He writes, “On the first day of a tragedy, everyone agrees that it’s no time for politics. On day two, however, it’s open season, apparently. It’s hard to process something like the Boston bombing and speak intelligently about it. Examples of unwise reactions abound, but let’s concentrate on what House Democrats said today. Politico‘s Jake Sherman has the report: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, said the bombings are ‘clearly another place where it demonstrates why having the ability to address security concerns is important.’ … In the short term, there’s a question of taste and accuracy. People aren’t taking his comments well (just check Twitter). Even if the Maryland congressman offered it the best faith, it smacks of political opportunism. And moreover, is there any evidence that more funding for law enforcement and security from the federal government would have made any difference in this attack, even if sequestration’s effects were in place?”
Annie Lowrey writes for The New York Times, “In recent years, policy makers in Europe and the United States have fastened on the notion that reaching a certain heavy burden of debt would threaten future economic health — often to justify austerity budgets that increased unemployment and sapped economic strength in the here and now. But now some economists are challenging the very foundations of that idea, raising questions about whether such a debt threshold even exists and setting off a fierce debate that flared up on Tuesday across the Internet about whether potentially flawed research is at least partly responsible for the slow growth that has bedeviled most advanced industrial countries since the recovery from the financial crisis began in 2009. … The controversy stems from a provocative new paper by economists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst that claims to have found some basic errors in one of the most path breaking and influential economic studies to come out in the last few years. … The economists, analyzing 3,700 separate economic observations, found little relationship between growth and debt for countries with debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratios of 90 percent or less. But for countries with debt loads equivalent to or greater than 90 percent of annual economic output, ‘median growth rates fall by 1 percent, and average growth falls considerably more.’” Read More…
Rebuttal: Our Table Proves Critics Actually Agree, Higher Debt Results in Slower Economic Growth
Business Insider reports, “The big scandal in the world of economics today is a new paper attempting to refute claims put forth by Harvard econ professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff that high levels of government debt result in slower growth. We already posted a response from Reinhart and Rogoff, which essentially says that the critique is overblown, and that ultimately the critics corroborate the essence of the paper, which is that high debt does result in slower growth. We just got the following chart from Professor Carmen Reinhart, which further clarifies the statement she sent out with Ken Rogoff. It shows that Herndon, Ash et. al. (the other papers authors) got almost the exact same results as she and Rogoff did in their original paper, ‘Growth in a Time of Debt’ — namely, that higher debt resulted in slower growth.” Click here to see the table.
Reid Blasts House GOP For Stalling Budget Conference
The Hill reports, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted House Republicans and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday for stalling the creation of a House-Senate conference committee on the budget. Ryan said Tuesday he wants a ‘framework’ in place before he will agree to form a conference, the next step under regular order in reconciling the wildly different House and Senate budget resolutions. ‘We want to go to conference when we feel we have a realistic chance of getting an agreement,’ Ryan told reporters Tuesday after a hearing. ‘We don’t want to conference when we have an endless process that focuses on our differences.’ … Hours later, Reid shot back that Ryan is holding things up. ‘Chairman Ryan said ‘we want to have a pre-conference.’ Well you can’t have it both ways. Does he want regular order? Obviously not,’ said Reid, whom Republicans have criticized for failing to move a budget over the last four years.”
Congress Must Clear Budget Gap Before New Spending Laws Can Pass
Roll Call reports, “Democrats and Republicans will need to bridge a $91 billion gap on budget plans before they can clear any new spending laws. But for now, neither side is suggesting a compromise — even as both contend they want a more orderly appropriations process. ‘Spending is the problem, so moving higher doesn’t make much sense to me,’ Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, a GOP appropriator, said Tuesday. He added it would be a ‘tough sell’ to support a higher spending cap. … Still, Democrats will seek to end the sequester as part of the bargaining around a larger budget deal that they hope will emerge in the next set of negotiations on the debt limit. The spending limit also is a point of contention between the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2014 budget resolution. And the partisan split over spending is becoming apparent as appropriators prepare to write the 12 annual spending bills. Senate appropriators want to allocate dollars based on the higher spending, while House appropriators plan to stick with the lower number. The different approaches are a formula for legislative gridlock.”
Report Finds Stimulus Funds Illegally Used for Lobbying
The Washington Free Beacon reports, “At least seven local health departments illegally used stimulus grant funds to lobby for greater taxes and restrictions on tobacco and unhealthy foods, according to a report released Tuesday by a nonprofit watchdog group. The stimulus-funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program disbursed about $373 million intended to educate the public about tobacco use and obesity. Federal law prohibits grantees from using the funds for lobbying activities. According to the group Cause of Action, local health departments from Alabama to California used the funds to devise or promote legislation designed to curb tobacco use or combat obesity. The report detailing the allegations is the product of a 19-month investigation into the CPPW program. ‘[Cause of Action’s] investigation revealed that CPPW money went to support lobbyists and public relations companies who used taxpayer dollars to push laws and agendas that would lead to tax increases on tobacco and high calorie products,’ the report said.”
House Dems Not Sold On Chained CPI
The Hill reports, “President Obama is struggling to convince House Democrats that a proposed cut to Social Security benefits has a place in the deficit fight. The White House on Tuesday sent its top economic adviser to the Capitol to meet with the Democratic Caucus in an effort to soothe the outcries over Obama’s plan to cut the popular seniors benefit by adopting the so-called ‘chained CPI’ formula in his 2014 budget. … ‘For me, there’s no question. If this is a negotiation on budget issues, trying to deal with deficits, then Social Security has never added a single penny to the deficits of this country or to the national debt,’ Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said immediately after the meeting. … Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) also suggested he was not won over by Tuesday’s White House pitch. … ‘There’s no love of this particular avenue,’ Crowley said, describing the administration’s argument, ‘but … of all the avenues that are available, this is the least harmful in terms of what they believe the consequences may be down the road for the country.’”
Signs Inflation May Be Slowing Gives Fed Room
The Wall Street Journal reports, “The latest reading on consumer prices could give the Federal Reserve a new reason to keep its easy-money policies intact—inflation shows signs of slowing. The Labor Department’s consumer-price index was up 1.5% in March from a year earlier, the fourth time in five months that it has been below the Fed’s 2% inflation goal. And while the core reading on consumer costs, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 1.9%, it also remained below the goal for the fourth time in five months. Readings like those Tuesday are likely to get the attention of central-bank officials as the debate heats up on when to begin winding down an $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program that was launched last year to stimulate the economy. The Fed has linked the bond buying to developments in the job market, saying it would slow the purchases once the job market improves substantially. Some officials have said recently that an inflation slowdown could be another factor that influences the Fed’s decision on when to curtail the program. If inflation readings are low, the Fed might feel it has more leeway to try to stimulate economic growth.”
Obama Targeting Few Provisions for Tax Extenders
POLITICO reports, “It’s a year-end tradition that’s as deeply ingrained as the lighting of the National Christmas Tree: a last-minute, feverish lobbying campaign to keep billions of dollars in temporary tax breaks on the books. But President Barack Obama’s budget proposal threatens to upend that routine. In a break with his previous budgets, Obama isn’t backing the continuation of the so-called tax extenders package that keeps dozens of benefits in place for a hodgepodge group that includes teachers, energy companies and Hollywood producers. Instead, the administration is targeting a few provisions that it finds particularly important, such as the research and development credit and the break for renewable-energy production, and asking Congress to make them permanent.”
“Lawmakers Increase Travel As Rest Of Country Deals With Budget Cuts”
The Washington Guardian reports, “While the rest of Congress was struggling to avoid the dreaded fiscal cliff late last year, then-Sen. John Kerry whisked off to London with a top aide. It was a classic farewell trip for a veteran Democrat about to become America’s next secretary of state. What wasn’t classic was the cost to taxpayers: $17,500 for two airline tickets to London that normally cost just $3,000. Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor commandeered a VIP military flight and dashed off to Switzerland with half-dozen Republican colleagues in late January, just days after a congressional vote to suspend the debt limit and avert another fiscal crisis. The jaunt – for a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos – likely set back taxpayers more than $50,000. And not to be outdone by their jet-setting bosses, more than a dozen congressional staffers from both political parties took a winter trip to sunny, warm Las Vegas at the expense of special interests Their weighty assignment? Check out the gadgets at the city’s annual consumer electronics expo. … Members of Congress and their staffers spent $1.45 million on official taxpayer trips in 2012, up about $230,000 from the year before. And in the first three months of 2013, lawmakers and staff took another $800,000 in trips at the expense of special interests, nearly $100,000 more than the same period last year, according to the official travel records compiled by Congress and stored on the PoliticalMoneyLine.com site.”
(ABC) Senate Sets Up Big Votes Wednesday for Gun Control: The day of reckoning is Wednesday for the embattled Manchin-Toomey background check provision and a myriad of other gun amendments, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips. The outcome of which will determine the fate of the biggest gun control legislation the Senate will vote on in two decades. A 4 p.m. vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment will kick off the votes. The amendment, proposed this past week as a bipartisan compromise from Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, always faced an uphill climb to pass in the Senate… Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was seen as a wild card because, although he supports the amendment, he has been ill and home in New Jersey. Aides said Lautenberg “hopes” to get back for the vote Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sounded a bit resigned Tuesday when he defended the bill’s momentum while, in the same breath, admitting that the votes may not be there. Regardless, he said, gun control supporters have the “wind at our back.” President Obama made calls to the few undecided senators Tuesday, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported. A White House official said there still was a path to 60 votes but conceded it is “a narrow path.”
(NBC) Manchin Concedes That Background Checks ‘Will Not Get The Votes’ : Amid growing Republican opposition to a bipartisan proposal that would expand background checks for gun purchases, one of the measure’s chief sponsors acknowledged Wednesday that it will fail in the Senate — at least for now. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) conceded to NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell that the proposal “will not get the votes today.” O’Donnell relayed the remarks on Twitter.
Sen. Joe Manchin tells me “we will not get the votes today” expanded background checks to fail in Senate. Try again he says.
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) April 17, 2013
Following O’Donnell’s tweet, a spokesman for Manchin issued a statement expressing optimism about the measure’s prospects. “So far Senator Manchin has managed to garner support from an A-rated NRA member and three Republican Senators as well as 90 percent of his own party,” the spokesman said in the statement. “With a record like that, I see no reason to bet against Senator Manchin today.”
(WAPOST) Letter sent to Miss. senator believed to be laced with poison: Federal officials said a letter addressed to a U.S. senator was discovered to contain a potential poison. It was intercepted at an off-site facility in Landover where congressional mail has been examined before delivery since anthrax-laced letters were sent to Capitol Hill in 2001. The letter was addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and initially tested positive for ricin, but officials familiar with the case said it was undergoing further testing late Tuesday. The officials gave no indication why the letter was sent to the second-term senator. In a statement, Wicker thanked federal authorities “for their hard work and diligence in keeping those of us who work in the Capitol complex safe.” During an afternoon briefing on the attacks at Monday’s Boston Marathon, senators were told that there is no suspected link between the letter and the attacks.
(REUTERS) Senators unveil immigration reform bill: A group of Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled long-awaited landmark legislation to remove the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants and give them an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens. Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before December 31, 2011, and had stayed in the country continuously could apply for “provisional” legal status as soon as six months after the bill is signed by the president. But beyond that, they would have to wait a decade or more for full citizenship which would entitle them to federal benefits, while the government works on further securing U.S. borders and enforcing the new immigration law. The bill’s sponsors – four Democrats and four Republicans – felt such conditions were necessary to help their plan succeed where similar measures have failed, mostly because of opposition to what opponents see as “amnesty” for law-breakers. Even with the many caveats, the proposal faces months of debate, scores of amendments and potentially significant opposition, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
In an apparent slip of the tongue, Harry Reid this morning referred to the gun-control bill he brought to the Senate floor as “anti-gun legislation.”
“On the anti-gun legislation before the Senate, we are making good progress on the effort to schedule a series of votes on amendments to the anti-gun violence legislation before the Senate.”
Some, however, are questioning whether the Senate minority leader accidentally revealted his true feelings. GOP sentaor Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of the bill, questioned whether Reid’s statement was in fact a “Freudian slip.” He said in a Tweet:
Freudian slip? Sen. Harry Reid calls bill “anti-gun legislation” youtube.com/watch?v=pHj6KA…
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) April 16, 2013
Senate Democrats are struggling to corral votes for the bill, which faces an uphill battle. A cloture vote on the compromise amendment proposed by GOP senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Manchin could come as early as Thursday.
Newtown passion moves Senate vote on guns
North Korea hints it will soon launch a missile
Republicans May Filibuster Each Amendent to Gun Bill For Days, Democrats Warn
Senate to hold initial gun control vote Thursday
Senate confirms SEC chief Mary Jo White
Schumer sees deal this week on immigration
Senate Republicans have adopted a “majority mentality” going into the 2014 elections, their best hope in years to take control of the chamber–and likely their last chance for a while.
With an election map favoring the GOP and a need for six pick-ups to replace Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans have begun an aggressive fundraising and candidate recruitment campaign to boost their chances and maybe even scare off some potential Democratic challengers.
It’s a wise move, says analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Kondik, considered one of the best in the nation, said that if the Republicans can build momentum early, it could create a national wave for the Republicans….
…The GOP has several targets for building that wave: West Virginia, Arkansas and South Dakota. In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito isn’t expected to have a primary challenge and the Democrats aren’t sufficiently strong yet to defend the seat held by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller. In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor is a top GOP target. And in South Dakota, the seat being vacated by Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson now leans Republican…
…Powering the effort is the NRSC’s “majority mentality,” which has the organization pushing in nearly every race. While in some years the GOP has put most its eggs in obvious pick-up states, the NRSC is expanding its portfolio to build momentum and create a few backup states in case something happens in elections that now look like easy wins.
It will require a big change in Republican campaign political culture. Sen. Jerry Moran, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, has hired an aggressive team, many members of “Team Cantor,” who helped House Majority Leader Eric Cantor win GOP control of the chamber in 2010….
…”Chairman Moran’s goal is simple – to win back majority so that the Senate functions again,” said Dayspring. “Winning the majority is extremely tough work, but we’re prepared for the challenge.”
After nearly three months flirting with the idea, Judd took to Twitter to say she needed to focus on her family.
The plan was only passed by a slim margin and after 20 hours of debate, and it holds little chance for approval in the Republican House.
Never let a crisis or military accident go to waste.
Majority Leader Harry Reid used the Hawthorne Army Depot accident today that killed 7 Marines to whine about the sequester cuts. Of course there is no link between the two events
INTERFAITH FRIENDS OF ISRAEL CALL ON
SENATORS TO REJECT HAGEL NOMINATION
Washington, D.C.: On the eve of the critical procedural vote on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense, ten national leaders of different faiths – but sharing a common commitment to Israel and its people – issued a joint appeal to members of the United States Senate to reject this appointment. In a letter to each Senator delivered before they act today on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s motion to cut off debate on this controversial nominee, the authors declared:
“Notwithstanding assurances he has made privately to your colleague, Sen. Chuck Schumer, in the course of his confirmation hearing and in other settings, Sen. Hagel’s longstanding hostility towards Jews and Israel is reprehensible and should disqualify him from this sensitive post.”
The ten leaders represent millions of Americans whose religious beliefs, deeply held values and strategic understanding of our times prompts them to champion the closest of ties between America and its only reliable ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel. They warn that:
“…The next few years may be among the most turbulent in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations. This is the case thanks to the developing perfect storm of: continuing and intensifying violence perpetrated by al Qaeda and other jihadists throughout the Middle East and adjacent regions; the ascendancy there and elsewhere of a Muslim Brotherhood equally committed to Israel’s destruction; and an Iranian regime that explicitly and repeatedly declares its intention to wipe Israel off the map nearing the realization of its nuclear weapon ambitions.”
The authors – who include Pastor John C. Hagee, National Chairman of Christians United for Israel, Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America and Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator and Co-Founder of Patriot Voices, Rev. Rick Joyner, President of the Oak Initiative and Beth Gilinsky, President of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs – cite evidence that “bespeak[s] a deep-seated animus” towards Jews and Israel that will surely dangerously influence Senator Hagel’s conduct should he become Defense Secretary.”
There is reason to believe that the referenced examples of Senator Hagel’s seriously defective judgment with respect to the Jewish State and its enemies – and ours – are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Unfortunately, if the Senate acts to cut-off debate on the Hagel nomination today, it will allow the nominee to withhold such information and probably other materials that would be even more damning. That would be doubly appalling for the fact that Sen. Hagel formally and publicly committed to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin that all requests for such data would be honored. (See a relevant column in today’s Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/26/the-case-against-chuck-hagel/) by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President of the Center for Security Policy which facilitated this letter.)
February 26, 2013
Senator Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Senator Reid:
We write to urge you to oppose Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become the next Secretary of Defense. The evidence that has accumulated in recent weeks makes one thing clear: Notwithstanding assurances he has made privately to your colleague, Sen. Chuck Schumer, in the course of his confirmation hearing and in other settings, Sen. Hagel’s longstanding hostility towards Jews and Israel is reprehensible and should disqualify him from this sensitive post.
That is especially true at the present moment. As you are well aware, the next few years may be among the most turbulent in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations. This is the case thanks to the developing perfect storm of: continuing and intensifying violence perpetrated by al Qaeda and other jihadists throughout the Middle East and adjacent regions; the ascendancy there and elsewhere of a Muslim Brotherhood equally committed to Israel’s destruction; and an Iranian regime that explicitly and repeatedly declares its intention to wipe Israel off the map nearing the realization of its nuclear weapon ambitions.
Particularly under such circumstances, the myriad examples of former Senator Hagel’s hostility towards Jews and the Jewish State cannot be dismissed on the basis of disavowals or apologies that clearly have much more to do with the needs of his imperiled confirmation than with a change of heart. Consider just a few of the cases in point:
· Sen. Hagel’s long-held notions about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating Senators.
· His moral equivalence between Israel and those bent on its destruction.
· His view that Israel’s putative nuclear arsenal is more worrying than an Iranian one.
· His claim that the State Department is an “adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Ministers’ office.”
· His contention that Israel is becoming “an apartheid state.” And
· His co-authorship of a report that recommends inserting U.S. forces on the West Bank to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Such a step would inevitably embroil us in that conflict – probably, in due course, with the effect of protecting Palestinian terrorists against Israeli defensive measures.
All these bespeak a deep-seated animus that will surely dangerously influence Senator Hagel’s conduct should he become Defense Secretary.
No true friend of the Jewish people and Israel can support that outcome. We call upon you to preclude it from happening.
Pastor John C. Hagee, Founder and National Chairman of Christians United for Israel
Mort Klein, President, Zionist Organization of America
Hon. Rick Santorum, Co-Founder, Patriot Voices
Rev. Rick Joyner, President, The Oak Initiative
Beth Gilinsky, President, National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, Ordained Minister, Kingdom Warriors
Rabbi Jon Hausman, Policy Committee Member, National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Sarah Stern, President, Endowment for Middle East Truth
Joel Rosenberg, New York Times Best-selling Author
Nicholas F. Papanicalaou, Chief Executive Officer, Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem