The President today travels to Hampton Roads, Virginia – 180 miles from Washington, DC – to continue his “endless campaign” for higher taxes instead of making the 1.7 mile trip to Harry Reid’s office on Capitol Hill to find a replacement for his sequester. At a time when the President should be working with Senate Democrats to find smarter, more responsible spending cuts, he is singularly focused on holding more rallies to push for tax hikes.
(HINT: President Obama could have made more than 3,000 trips to sit down with Harry Reid and Senate Democrats.)
Global Climate Status Report
Warns of Rapidly Approaching Cold Climate
Monday, February 18, 2013
The Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) announces today the public release of the Executive Summary for its Global Climate Status Report for 2013. This important document is intended to provide political leaders, business executives, educators, and the general public with a concise overview of the actual climate trends now present and an analysis of the Earth’s climate future based on these trends.
In the Executive Summary, the SSRC report authors show convincing evidence that the Earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are on a long term temperature cool down as a result of the just started reduction in the Sun’s energy output. Called a “solar hibernation,” this rare and powerful natural cycle of the Sun has been shown to bring long and potentially dangerous cold climate eras to the planet.
Using data form numerous researchers and science organizations, in addition to the SSRC’s own research, the Executive Summary spells out with detailed charts of climate trends, what is really happening with the climate.
According to SSRC President, Mr. John L. Casey, “This report was planned for some time. Clearly though, its release at this time is intended to put some reality into the ongoing Congressional debates about to begin on the administration’s proposed new carbon taxes and other regulations supposedly designed to stop manmade global warming. The government’s release of its own draft climate assessment report continues to show our government is on the wrong track for addressing climate change and is still shackled to the disproved greenhouse gas theory of climate change. As is well known, however, past predictions about the climate using that theory have been all wrong, global warming ended years ago, and now a new cold climate has arrived. The general public and our leaders need the truth about climate change at their disposal before making long term decisions about climate change for government policy and managing their day-to-day lives. This next climate change to a potentially dangerous cold climate needs to be well understood by all so they can best prepare for what is coming.
I am sending copies to Senator Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner as well as other leaders at the federal and state level.”
The Executive Summary is now posted for public download from the SSRC web site. The full Global Climate Status Report, will be available for a fee when published on March 4, 2013.
Senator Marco Rubio on the Mark Levin Show February 13 2013
Spending Daily | February 14, 2013
“Social Security Head: Program Fraying from Neglect”
The Associated Press reports, “Outgoing Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue has some parting shots for Congress, the White House and advocates for seniors. They have all ‘really walked away from Social Security,’ he says, leaving the program ‘fraying because of inattention to its problems.’ Instead of making the hard choices to fix Social Security’s financial problems, policymakers ‘use it as a tool of political rhetoric,’ Astrue said. … The trustees who oversee Social Security say the program’s trust funds will run dry in 2033, leaving Social Security with only enough revenue to pay about 75 percent of benefits. Already the program is paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes.” Astrue went on to say, “‘I think it’s a shame that Washington cannot get its act together to look at Social Security in detail in isolation and say, What do we need to do?’”
Sequester Fix May Be Pushed Back to Late March
Roll Call reports, “Even as they blame one another for automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1, key lawmakers on both sides believe the best chance for a bipartisan deal to restructure the sequester will come by the end of March. ‘The best time to redesign the automatic spending cuts will come with the [expiration of the] continuing resolution on March 27,’ said RepublicanRep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. ‘The cuts will occur on March 1. Then there will be a fight in the CR over the design.’ … The flexibility on timing of a compromise stands in contrast to the public narrative both parties are weaving on the sequester, which targets the March 1 trigger date for the onset of $85 billion in draconian spending cuts. Each side is blaming the other party for the impasse in negotiations to reshape the plan they both agreed to in the 2011 deal.”
Boehner: Sequester Likely, Waiting on Plan from Obama
The Associated Press reports, “House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate will prevent a wave of automatic spending cuts from beginning to strike the economy in two weeks. … Boehner said he has no plans to resurrect legislation passed by Republicans last year to block this year’s sequester. The speaker said that until Obama puts forward a plan to avoid the sequester and Senate Democrats pass it, ‘we’re going to be stuck with it. It’s going to be a little bleak around here when this actually happens and people actually have to make decisions.’ House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate will prevent a wave of automatic spending cuts from beginning to strike the economy in two weeks.”
Dems Pushing For More Tax Hikes In Sequester Plan
The Hill reports, “A large group of liberal Democrats are pushing back against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to replace the sequester with an even balance of spending cuts and tax revenues. They want the package to raise substantially more through taxes and cut less in spending. Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, has sided with President Obama in supporting a 50-50 split of spending cuts and tax revenues to stop the $85 billion sequester due to take effect March 1. However, a significant portion of Reid’s caucus argues the split should be 80-20, with tax increases making up the bulk of the package. They contend Reid and Obama are negotiating with themselves by agreeing upfront to a 1-1 ratio of tax increases and spending cuts. … Senate liberals say this outcome would be unfair because, by their calculation, Congress has already enacted $1.7 trillion in spending cuts compared to collecting only $700 billion in new taxes. The members claim the total amount of deficit reduction, including proposals passed in the last Congress, should raise a dollar in taxes for every dollar it cuts in spending.”
Stimulus Funded Workers’ Play at LG Chem Factory
The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Obama administration’s electric car efforts took another hit on Wednesday after a federal inspection found a South Korean advanced battery maker never scaled up U.S. production despite receiving $142 million in federal grants. A Holland, Mich., factory owned by LG Chem Ltdl, part of LG Corp., was half-funded by a government grant and estimated to add some 440 jobs building battery cells for General Motors Co.’s GM +1.33% Chevrolet Volt and other vehicles. When demand for the plant’s batteries didn’t meet expectations, the company filled orders with cells made at a factory in South Korea, leaving the Michigan plant largely idle … The inspector general said that to avoid layoffs at the factory LG Chem paid idle workers $1.6 million in the third quarter of last year, about half of which was covered by its U.S. grant, even though there was nothing for them to do. The workers played board games, watched movies, and volunteered at local animal shelters during regular work hours, Mr. Friedman said. LG Chem has since paid back the government’s share of those charges.”
Deficit Concerns Losing Traction In Washington
The Washington Post reports, “President Obama’s State of the Union address laid down the marker for a new, activist phase of his presidency — one in which he will not allow concerns about the deficit to dictate the major policy decisions that confront him. But congressional Republicans insisted Wednesday that the problem they consider the biggest long-term threat to the nation’s prosperity is still a long way from being solved, and that they will keep it front and center. … As he begins his second term, Obama is convinced that he has gained the upper hand on fiscal issues, in part because the latest projections show the deficit is coming down from its record levels. Obama also argued in his speech Tuesday night that continuing to focus so intensely on reducing red ink could hamper the country’s ability to create ‘a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.’”
SOTU Speech “short on tax-policy specifics”
The Wall Street Journal reports, “President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was short on tax-policy specifics, but a fact sheet the White House put out just after midnight suggests that the administration is largely returning to ideas it outlined in last year’s State of the Union. One big question now is whether the administration will take the next step and turn more of its concepts into concrete proposals in its upcoming budget. That could give a shot of momentum to the slow-moving tax-overhaul process in Congress. The administration wasn’t saying on Wednesday.”
“Learning To Love The Sequester”
John Makin of the American Enterprise Institute argues that Washington should learn to love the sequester, writing in The Wall Street Journal, “Cutting government spending by $110 billion per year would lower total federal spending, currently at about $3.6 trillion per year, by 3%. That is a modest reduction in spending, especially in view of the widely proclaimed need to cut the deficit. Congress, especially Republicans, should embrace the sequester. While it represents only a modest, 10-year spending cut of $1.1 trillion—just 2.5% of projected total federal spending over that period—it still amounts to $2 of spending cuts for every dollar of the president’s tax increases enacted on Jan. 2. … The sequester, along with the tax increases, would slow growth for a quarter or two, perhaps to 1%. But thereafter the slower growth in government debt levels and less uncertainty attached to fiscal policy would lead to greater private investment, increased economic growth and substantially reduced deficits.”
Sequestration Burden Will Fall Heavily On Veterans
The Washington Post reports, “If the federal government is forced to furlough civilian employees in the event of sequestration, the burden will fall heavily on a population that Congress and the White House have vowed to support: veterans. More than two out of five of the approximately 800,000 Department of Defense employees facing furloughs are veterans, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday. ‘Forty-four percent of them are veterans,’ Carter told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on the potential effect of sequestration on the military. ‘Very soon we’re going to have to furlough the great majority of them.’ The Pentagon expects to furlough its civilian employees for the maximum statutory length of 22 days between the beginning of April and the end of the year, Carter said. That will amount to 20 percent of their pay, he noted.”
“No debt crisis in Obama’s State of the Union”
The Washington Examiner editorializes, “From President Obama’s State of the Union address, one might have come away with the impression that the nation’s finances are hunky-dory. Obama suggested that most of the heavy lifting on deficit reduction is already done, and that the rest can be accomplished bymaking minor adjustments to spending and closing tax loopholes on wealthierAmericans. Obama said he’s already signed $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the last several years and argued that’s more than halfway to the $4 trillion needed to address the deficit problem. A Congressional Budget Office report released last week assumes that the automatic spending cuts under sequestration provide an additional $1.2 trillion in 10-year deficit reduction. In other words, the CBO already assumes deficit reduction roughly in line with what Obama claimed was the goal. … In other words, if Obama won’t go beyond light tinkering with entitlements, he’s going to need to acknowledge the need for large-scale tax hikes on the middle class — something he failed to do during his first term in office, and also in Tuesday night’s speech.”
White House Opposes Pay Freeze Extension, But Won’t Block It
The Hill reports, “A bill under consideration by the House Rules Committee would extend the federal pay freeze throughout the entire year. The White House said Wednesday that it opposed a House bill that would prevent federal employees from receiving the half-percentage point pay raise set to go into effect next month, but the administration stopped short of issuing a formal veto threat. … Federal pay was frozen in 2010 during the financial crisis, with the small raise set to kick in at the beginning of this year. But its implementation was delayed through March 27 as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, with federal workers set to earn their raise with the expiration of the current continuing resolution.”
“Obama Bid for Europe Trade Pact Stirs Hope on Both Sides”
The New York Times, “President Obama’s call for a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union has unleashed a wave of optimism on both sides that a breakthrough can be achieved that would lift trans-Atlantic fortunes, not just economically but politically. Experts cited tough economic times on both sides of the Atlantic and a perceived need among European leaders for a cause to unify their frayed union as major reasons that an agreement might be reached now, where past efforts have failed. But an even greater consideration, they said, was the growing economic might of China. … Proponents hope that a comprehensive trade agreement will not only raise economic growth, but also lower prices for European and American consumers and give new impetus to a relationship that has lacked forward momentum almost since the end of the cold war. Talks could begin in late May or early June.”
Spending Daily | February 4, 2013
Reid: Dems to Demand More Tax Hikes in Sequester Deal
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid drew a red line in the budget showdown with Republicans, saying Democrats will demand additional revenue as part of any deal to alter the mandatory spending cuts set to hit at the beginning of next month. The comments, made in an interview Sunday with ABC’s ‘This Week,’ come as Senate Democrats weigh options for averting at least some of the March 1 cuts, known in Washington as the sequester. One Democratic proposal would seek to offset some of the roughly $85 billion in cuts this year with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.”
Premiums Could Triple for Some Young, Healthy Men Under New Healthcare Law
POLITICO reports, “The federal health care law could nearly triple premiums for some young and healthy men, according to a forthcoming survey of insurers that singles out a group that might become a major public opinion battleground in the Obamacare wars. The survey, fielded by the conservative American Action Forum and made available to POLITICO, found that if the law’s insurance rules were in force, the premium for a relatively bare-bones policy for a 27-year-old male nonsmoker on the individual market would be nearly 190 percent higher. That isn’t the sticker price many of these individuals would pay, thanks to subsidies offered with the law. But the young men with higher incomes wouldn’t get subsidies, and the warning of a premium price shock for them might become a key exhibit in opponents’ argument that Obamacare won’t save Americans money over the long haul but would rather cost them.”
Samuelson: “Stimulus Becomes A Narcotic”
Robert J. Samuelson editorializes in The Washington Post, “Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is trying to revive the country’s flagging economy, and we could all learn from the exercise. … To get the economy moving, Abe has proposed a ‘stimulus’ package of 10.3 trillion yen ($114 billion), about 2.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and pushed the Bank of Japan (BOJ) — Japan’s Federal Reserve — to ease credit. This is familiar stuff. For years, Japanese governments have adopted stimulus plans. Since 1995, budget deficits have averaged 6 percent of GDP; that’s why debt (all past deficits) has exploded. The BOJ has repeatedly eased credit. In 1999, it cut short-term rates to near zero. It has had two episodes of ‘quantitative easing’ — pumping more money into the economy — one from 2001 to 2006, the other from 2009 to now. None of this has restored Japan’s glory days. … The lesson is that huge budget deficits and ultra-low interest rates — the basics of stimulus — have limits and can be self-defeating. To use a well-worn metaphor: Stimulus becomes a narcotic. People feel better for a while, but the effect wears off. The economy then needs a new fix. Too many fixes may spawn new problems (examples: excessive debt, asset ‘bubbles,’ inflation).”
Obama: “Washington cannot continually operate under a cloud of crisis”
According to The Hill, “President Obama insisted Sunday that additional tax revenue will need to be part of future deficit deals, but said hikes in tax rates may not be necessary. In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS, the president outlined his vision for further deficit reduction, which he said was essential, but in a way that preserves the government’s ability to continue spending on key programs. He also emphasized that the seemingly continuous stream of Washington standoffs was wreaking havoc on confidence in the U.S. economy. … ‘Washington cannot continually operate under a cloud of crisis, that freezes up consumers,’ he said. ‘We can’t afford these self-inflicted wounds.’”
House Taking Up Measure to Force President to Identify Date of Balanced Budget
Roll Call reports, “House Republicans want to spend this short congressional week hammering President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats over the budget, hoping to ride the momentum of their ‘no budget, no pay’ ploy. The House will take up a measure that would force the president to identify the date his budget would balance when he submits the spending blueprint to Congress later this year. If it does not do so, he would have to submit a new budget that does. … By law, the president must submit his budget by Monday, but acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients sent a letter to Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., last month informing him that the budget will be delayed because of late passage of a fiscal-cliff deal.”
Cantor Speech Could Signal Change in Republican Messaging
The Wall Street Journal reports, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor plans to urge Republicans to begin talking about how the federal government can help American families rather than focusing primarily on the need to reduce federal spending and tackle budget deficits. In a policy speech scheduled for Tuesday to the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Cantor plans to talk about a range of areas—from education to medical research to job training, as well as an overhaul of the tax code—in the context of how Republican ideas could benefit families across the nation, a top aide to the majority leader said. The overarching theme of the speech will be that, while Republican determination to pare back federal budget deficits and the size of the federal government shouldn’t fade away, it should be supplemented with talk of how the party wants to make the government work better, the aide said. Public opinion polls have repeatedly shown Americans hold Republicans to blame for the series of fiscal crises that have dominated Washington over the past two years. The speech, in effect, would serve as recognition that the GOP must change its messaging and its actions.”
Partisan Stalemate On the Hill Returns
POLITICO reports, “Washington is entering a distinctly familiar situation: a paralyzing legislative stalemate with outsize importance for the nation’s economic and homeland security. In just 25 days, automatic federal spending cuts — the ones Democrats and Republicans say they hate in equal measure — take hold. But once again, rather than working together on a deal, House Republicans and SenateDemocrats are on divergent paths — neither of which seem as though they’ll lead to quick resolution. The GOP game plan: turn the heat up on President Barack Obama. Much like the tax rates in November, the spending cuts are baked into law. It’s Obama’s responsibility to replace the spending reductions, GOP leadership staff says. Don’t expect any more legislation from the House. They’ve passed legislation to stop the cuts, they say.”
Happy Talk, Sad Results
Despite News Of A Shrinking Economy, The Democrat Leader Continues To Repeat Party Talking Points
Four Years Of Dem Rhetoric: “An Economic Recovery Has Begun”
TODAY: Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): “We are in a recovery.” (Sen. Harry Reid, Floor Remarks, 1/31/13)
2013: President Obama: “An economic recovery has begun.” (President Obama, 2nd Inaugural Address, 1/21/13)
2012: Vice President Biden: “America has turned the corner.” (Vice President Biden, Remarks At Democratic National Convention, 9/16/12)
2011: President Obama: ‘We are now turning the corner.’ “We didn’t just rescue the economy we put it on the strongest footing for the future. … Here’s the good news, because of these historic efforts, we are now turning the corner.” (“Obama: ‘We’re Turning The Corner,’” Politico, 3/8/11)
2010: “Vice President Joe Biden Thursday helps kick off what the White House calls ‘Recovery Summer,’ A Six Week Long Push To Highlight What The Administration Says Will Be Jobs Created This Summer And Fall By A Surge In Federal Stimulus Spending Across The Country.”(“White House Begins New Stimulus Push,” CNN, 6/17/10)
· Sec. Geithner: “Welcome to the Recovery.” (Sec. Geithner, “Welcome To The Recovery,” The New York Times, 8/3/10)
· Sec. LaHood: “Welcome, everyone, to the Summer of Recovery!” (Sec. LaHood, White House Blog Post, 6/18/10)
2009: Vice President Biden: The stimulus will “literally drop-kicks us out of this recession.” “This is a monumental project, but I think it’s doable. But I just think we got to stay on top (inaudible) and we got to stay on top of that on a weekly basis. Because this is about getting this out and spent in 18 months to create 3.5 million jobs and do — to set — tee this up so the rest of the good work that’s being done here literally drop-kicks us out of this recession and we begin to grow again and begin to employ people again.” (Vice President Biden, Remarks At Recovery Plan Implementation Meeting, The White House, 2/25/09)
Reality: ‘Real Gross Domestic Product … Decreased’
AP: “US economy shifted into reverse in late 2012” (“US Economy Shifted Into Reverse In Late 2012,” AP, 1/30/13)
NPR: “In 4th Quarter, economy shrank for first time since ’09” (“In 4th Quarter, Economy Shrank For First Time Since ’09,” NPR, 1/30/13)
CBS: “Economy shrinks 0.1% in Q4” (“Economy Shrinks 0.1% In Q4,” CBS, 1/30/13)
“Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — decreased at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the ‘advance’ estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 3.1 percent.” (“National Income And Product Accounts, Gross Domestic Product, 4th Quarter And Annual 2012,” Bureau Of Economic Analysis, 1/30/13)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (“The Unemployment Situation – December 2012,” Bureau Of Labor Statistics, 1/4/13)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “Yesterday, we learned that our economy contracted for the first time in more than three years. This news comes, of course, after President Obama spent an entire election promising Americans that a return to robust economic growth was right around the corner, and little more than a week after the President said in his inaugural address that ‘economic recovery has begun.’” (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 1/31/13)
WASHINGTON—Earlier today, House Republicans announced a path forward on the nation’s near-term budget challenges. The 1974 Congressional Budget Act requires passage of a budget resolution by April 15 each year. Under Senator Harry Reid’s leadership, the Senate has refused to pass a budget for 1,360 days. As the Administration and Congress work through opportunities to cut government spending, there will be no consideration of a long-term debt-ceiling increase unless both the House and the Senate pass a long-term budget plan. The plan also includes a bipartisan proposal to withhold Senators’ salaries if they fail to pass a budget.
In response to the plan outlined by House Republican leaders, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan issued the following statement:
“I stand in strong support of the agreement reached by my colleagues today. Our conference has united around a common-sense proposal. It rests on the recognition that our challenge is twofold: We have to pay our bills today, and we have to make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. To achieve both ends, we must cut spending and budget responsibly.
“Since taking the majority, House Republicans have done their job. We’ve passed a budget that promotes economic growth and gets spending under control. But for nearly four years, Senate Democrats have refused to pass a budget. Today’s agreement will hold the Senate accountable for this legal and moral failure. Just as April 15 is tax day for American families, it is budget day for Congress. Unless the Senate acts, there will be no consideration of a long-term debt-ceiling increase. I look forward to working with my colleagues—in both houses and in both parties—on this vital issue.”
Life is good when you’re in the majority—and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) seems to believe he’ll be there forever.
Reid has already effectively shut down the opportunity for minority Senators to offer amendments to bills. Now he is angling to change the Senate’s rules so that minority members cannot filibuster a bill.
The way the Senate is set up, every Senator has the ability to debate legislation. But as Heritage senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky notes, “If members lose these abilities, the majority party will have the unchecked capability to shut off debate and pass legislation without opposition.”
The filibuster—famously depicted in the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—actually doesn’t happen that often. As Senator Jim DeMint wrote for Heritage in November, “The last person to engage in a genuine filibuster was the ultraliberal Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In 2010, He spoke on the Senate floor for eight hours straight in an attempt to defeat legislation to extend tax rates.”
In recent years, Republicans have not filibustered legislation, despite Reid’s current crusade. DeMint notes that “filibusters have not prevented the Democrat-led Senate from passing a budget over the past three years, preventing the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ or taking steps to reduce our $16 trillion and rising debt. Harry Reid has.”
To shut down debate takes a vote of three-fifths of the Senate. But Reid wants to change longstanding Senate rules so that a simple majority of 51 Senators could end any debate. This has been called the “nuclear option.”
Of course, Reid seems to assume that his party will never lose the majority, and this rule change would work forever in his favor. Both Reid and President Obama have previously argued against changing the rules when it wouldn’t benefit them.
In 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama correctly argued:
what [the American people] don’t expect, is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet…everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster—if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate—then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.
Reid isn’t the only one looking to change the Senate rules. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) are now claiming that their plan for a bipartisan “reform” of Senate procedures is a better idea. But von Spakovsky explains that it would “create a new category of super senators who will be empowered to participate in the legislative process to the exclusion of rank-and-file members.” It would concentrate power in the hands of only four Senators, excluding the other 96 from being able to offer amendments to legislation.
“This proposal may be worse than Reid’s because it would empower the leadership of both parties to the detriment of open debate and a free amendment process available to all members,” von Spakovsky writes.
The Senate’s rules were set up for very good reasons. Von Spakovsky reminds us that “George Washington told Jefferson that the Senate was intended to ‘cool’ House legislation in the same way that a saucer was used to cool hot tea.” Unlike the House, in the Senate, every state has equal representation, and every Senator should have a voice. If the rules change every time the majority party changes, the Senate will lose its ability to deliberate in the way it was designed.
The real battle on the filibuster? Judges.
Article below by Steven Duffield of Crossroads GPS details how the filibuster would impact judicial nominations.
Harry Reid’s filibuster plan and the Supreme Court
by Steven J. Duffield
January 3, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has announced he will begin the new Congress today by violating Senate rules and forcing through a set of procedural changes that will undermine Senate conservatives’ ability to influence legislation. But the “Reid Plan” will have its most dramatic impact on presidential nominations, especially for the Supreme Court.
The Senate is a unique legislative body that protects the rights of individual senators both to debate and to amend. These rights are valued so highly that it takes a supermajority — today, 60 votes — to deny fellow senators those rights. This higher vote threshold and the prospect of extended debate encourage deliberation, compromise and moderation.
Many Senate liberals want to gut this long-standing protection for minorities. Buried in the Reid Plan is a new rule, the “standing filibuster requirement,” that will allow a partisan majority to shut off deliberation and pass legislation by a bare majority. Disguised as a debate-promoting measure, this new plan is actually just a mechanism to eliminate the higher vote threshold that has long been required to proceed to final passage of bills and nominations.
This spells the effective end to minority rights in the Senate. Today’s 60-vote bar to end debate will be gone, and the Senate will be transformed into President Obama’s rubber stamp.
Making matters worse, Reid plans to impose his plan by breaking Senate rules with the “nuclear option,” a parliamentary trick that will explode any lingering comity among senators. Once the nuclear option is deployed to impose the Reid Plan, it is far more likely to be used again and again to undermine minority rights. This pattern will ultimately make the Senate a mirror image of the House.
The most dramatic impact of the Reid Plan will be with regard to the Supreme Court, where the House of Representatives plays no constitutional role. President Obama will likely fill between one and three Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years, and he will be under enormous pressure from his base to nominate doctrinaire liberals who will reverse the decision upholding the partial-birth abortion ban, weaken personal liberties protected in the Bill of Rights, and eliminate the modest limitations on congressional power that the Rehnquist and Roberts courts have restored.
Senate conservatives will strongly oppose such a nominee. Conservatives already used their rights to extend debate to effectively block lower-court nominees such as “living Constitution” advocate Goodwin Liu and the highly controversial Caitlin Halligan. Each will be on the president’s shortlist for the Supreme Court. Yet if the Reid Plan is in effect, senators will be powerless to prevent the appointment of Liu, Halligan or similar judicial activists, because the 60-vote threshold will be gone and Obama’s party will just fall in line behind his choice.
The future of the Supreme Court isn’t the only thing at stake. While it’s unlikely that liberals will gain control of the House any time soon, it is not out of the question that Obama could command a unified, one-party government in his last two years. Under Reid’s new rules, the president could pass any legislation he wanted without negotiating with conservatives and taking their views into account. That means higher taxes, more spending, bigger government and no chance of entitlement reform.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised massive resistance to the Reid gambit, but he will need public support. Americans should be asking themselves if they want to make it easier for Congress to rubber-stamp the president’s whims, or if deliberative democracy and minority rights still matter.
Steven J. Duffield is vice president for policy at Crossroads GPS.
It certainly looks that way. The most striking thing about the tax hike was the holiday rush. (Of course, that’s how Obamacare made it through the Senate in 2009, on Christmas Eve no less.)
Let’s face it. The American people voted for a tax hike when they re-elected Barack Obama and gave him a Democratic Senate. There’s not too much the GOP can do with just one branch of the legislature, especially when the other branch colludes with the White House to wage a classic class warfare campaign, abetted by the usual suspects in the media. The sequestration strategy depended on a complete GOP victory in 2012. In retrospect, it would have been better for Speaker Boehner to initiate the showdown in 2011 fresh from the big GOP win in 2010, with an energized base ready to fight on principle. Trying to cut a deal in December 2012, with a fresh Obama win and a demoralized base- you didn’t need a Ouija board to predict how that was going to turn out.
Still, one could have done something. The media acted as if all hell would break lose at 12:01 AM on New Year’s Day in the absence of a deal. That was nonense. People were paid through year-end. Increased withholding wouldn’t have taken place until the first paychecks of 2013 were cut, and that would have been mid-January for most people. The government could have muddled through for some days. Team Boehner could have sunk the McConnell package in the House and used the time to bargain for more spending constraints, making the Democrats sweat for a change and salvaging the Republican brand. Alas, a lost opportunity.
There are silver linings. The tax hikes are not as bad as those desired by the far left. Even the Democrats backed away from the ridiculous assertion that an income of $250,000 makes one “rich”. The estate tax threshold stayed at 5 million instead of dropping to a catastrophic level for small business owners. The Alternative Minimum Tax threat has been neutralized for the time being. The tax hike that will hit most Americans is the restoration of two percentage points shaved off the Social Security tax. Given the wobbly state of Social Security’s long term solvency, that cut was pandering by the political classes at its worst and one should not cry over it. Most important, the combination of higher marginal rates and lower deductions will hit those pricey, affluent blue states the hardest. There is some justice in this world.
But make no mistake about it- this deal has damaged the Republican party, and is another indication that leadership changes are imperative in Congress. The sooner, the better.