Oct 17, 2013

Will We Go Through More of Ted Cruz' Crap in 3 Months?

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The GOP Has Surrendered for Now -- But It Will Try More Extortion Soon and Dems Have to be Strong

Democrats humbled the GOP this round, but they can't hand them what they want in the next.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats shouldn’t spike the football or dance in the end zone once they succeed in lifting the debt ceiling and reopening government, because decorum. Or something. It would be bad taste and it might even make Republicans crazier. That’s a real risk. I would have denied that crazier than this was possible a few months ago, but I’ve learned: Never bet against their capacity for crazy.
Still, part of me disagrees with that assessment, strongly. I think Democrats should do whatever is necessary to make clear to Republicans that this was a political disaster for them, and a genuine disaster for the country, and it should never be tried again. If humiliation would do that, I’m all for it.

On the other hand, it’s a mistake for Democrats, liberals especially, to celebrate this deal – because we can still lose.

Let’s be clear: Republicans got something for their bad behavior: tougher income verification requirements for Affordable Care Act subsidies, and a shorter debt-ceiling hike than Democrats said they wanted. And Republicans gave…nothing. They merely did their jobs and reopened the government and averted a global economic disaster. They put down the gun, and they released the hostage. That’s all.

They’re also getting a promise of formal negotiations over the budget. Now that should happen anyway, so that’s not a big deal. But Democrats have spent the last month on GOP turf: conceding that they must talk about deficit reduction, with pious nods to Saints Simpson and Bowles and now, yuck, Blessed Leon Panetta — and that they’re open to everything. And most of them mean it.

I just watched Sen. Chuck Schumer tell MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that once this deal is out of the way, Congress will resume budget negotiations, and everything, including so-called “entitlements,” must be on the table. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was a little bit more balanced, insisting Democrats should only look at entitlement cuts in exchange for more revenues from people who can pay more. “Why should Granny pay the price?” without asking the rich to share the sacrifice, Pelosi asked.

But with all due respect to the once (and perhaps future) speaker, who’s been the toughest Democrat over the last five years: The answer is Granny shouldn’t pay any price. When Social Security needs “fixing,” we should lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The chained CPI is a cut and shouldn’t be a first offer, but a last resort.

Likewise, President Obama took a tax rate hike off the table this month in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood; Congressional Democratic leaders should put it back on the table immediately.

I’ve been impressed by the way Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have kept their caucus together. I’ve also liked seeing new life among Congressional progressives. With the quiet backing of Reid in the Senate, they cleared space for the most progressive likely Fed chair pick, Janet Yellen. They need to make sure that any new budget deal doesn’t start with the president’s budget, which concedes too much to the GOP already.

Maybe Democrats, including the president, feel secure that they can nod to the debt-reduction wise men and promise to do the right thing — which in the real world is the wrong thing — because it’s a deal they’ll never have to deliver on: House Republicans won’t give up any revenue to get it. Still, I’m tired of Democrats endorsing what are essentially GOP narratives about the way the world works: Deficit reduction is more important than economic growth or income inequality.

Democrats so often snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It would be a shame if they humbled the GOP this round only to hand them what they want in the next. Everyone’s looking to see whether Republicans learned their lesson from this debacle; we need to make sure Democrats did, too. If they return to their role as “enablers,” in Pelosi’s words, they’re part of the problem.

Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large. Read more of her work at Salon.

Goodies slipped into the CONGRESSIONAL DEAL, including a BIG deal for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Kentucky!!

The legislation released by the Senate late Wednesday to reopen the government contains several surprises.

The bill includes extra funds to fix flooded roads in Colorado, a $3 million appropriation for a civil liberties oversight board and a one-time payment to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died over the summer.
It also includes an increase in authorization for spending on construction on the lower Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky. The bill increases it to $2.918 billion.

The Senate Conservatives Fund quickly called that language the "Kentucky Kickback," and said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) secured that as the price of his support for the bill. Taxpayers for Common Sense says the bill would increase total authorized spending by $1.2 billion.

Senate staffers were still scrambling to piece the bill together for votes in the House and Senate Wednesday night. Lawmakers hope to get it to President Obama’s desk before Thursday’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

A draft of the bill began circulating in the early evening, and a final version was released by Senate Democratic staff just before 6 p.m.
The legislation also includes specific language that aims to pay back furloughed federal government workers as soon as is practicable.

Section 115 of the text says government workers who are furloughed because of the shutdown "shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations."

Section 116 says states that funded a federal program will be compensated as well, and that the government will pay back states for these costs.

The legislation broadly re-opens the government through Jan. 15, and extends the ability of the government to borrow money through Feb. 7. It does so by allowing President Obama to waive the debt ceiling, a move that can be overridden by a resolution of disapproval by Congress that Obama could still veto.

The Senate bill uses H.R. 2775 as a vehicle for all of these changes. That bill was originally a House GOP bill that would have delayed all health insurance subsidies until a system is put in place to verify incomes for eligibility purposes.

The Senate language does give that issue a nod, by including new rules for verifying household income to determine eligibility for subsidies to buy health insurance under ObamaCare. It specifically requires the government to "certify to the Congress that the Exchanges verify such eligibility."

The secretary of Health and Human Services would have to submit a report to Congress detailing procedures used by the exchanges, and an inspector general report would be required by July 1.

Elsewhere, the bill allows the Department of Transportation to spend up to $450 million to fund the repair of Colorado roads that were damaged by floods. In September, the House passed a bill allowing the department to spend more than the $100 million cap on Colorado roads.
On the issue of District of Columbia funding, the bill gives the District the right to spend all of its local funds for the rest of fiscal year 2014, making it immune from any possible shutdown later in the fiscal year.

While the District collects its own tax revenue, it is restricted from spending it except through an act of Congress. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) described this language as an "historic first."

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board would get $3.1 million under the bill. The board was set up in 2004 to ensure privacy concerns are addressed as laws and regulations are issued related to fighting terrorist threats against the country.

Lawmakers and President Obama have sought to jumpstart the board in the wake of the revelations about National Security Agency surveillance.

Another part of the bill, Section 148, holds that no adjustment shall be made related to a cost of living adjustment for members of Congress in fiscal 2014.

Finally, and as expected, it contains language requiring a payment of $174,000 to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died in June at age 89.
— This story was updated at 6:24 p.m. to include the text of the final Senate language.

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