Browsing the archives for the Congress category.


Bibi Netanyahu Is to Iran What George Laffer Is to Economics

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Congress, Israel, Obama Administration

That is to say, wrong.

In the address on Tuesday to the United States Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, we witnessed a new peak in the long-running hype over Iran’s nuclear energy program. Yet all his predictions about how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb have proved baseless.

Despite that, alarmist rhetoric on the theme has been a staple of Mr. Netanyahu’s career. In an interview with the BBC in 1997, he accused Iran of secretly “building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles,” predicting that eventually Manhattan would be within range. In 1996, he stood before Congress and urged other nations to join him to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability, stressing that “time is running out.” Earlier, as a member of Parliament, in 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years.

In front of world leaders at the United Nations in September 2012, Mr. Netanyahu escalated his warnings by declaring that Iran could acquire the bomb within a year. It is ironic that in doing so, he apparently disregarded the assessment of his own secret service: A recently revealed document showed that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, had advised that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” The United States intelligence community had reached the same conclusion in its National Intelligence Estimate.

Despite extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, no evidence has ever been presented to contradict the clear commitment by Iran’s leaders that they would under no circumstances engage in manufacturing, stockpiling and using nuclear weapons. In 2013, for example, only Japan, which has many more nuclear facilities than Iran, was subject to greater agency scrutiny.

Someone else remembered that Bibi told Congress in 2002 that getting rid of Saddam Hussein would have “enormous, positive reverberations on the region.”

Seriously, even Tom Friedman was unconvinced by Bibi’s speech yesterday. There is broad consensus that Netanyahu failed to explain how trashing the White House negotiations would result in anything better. He reminds me of the progressives who were opposed to the Affordable Care Act because they fantasized that trashing it would magically give us single payer.

Jim Newell of Salon called the speech an insult, not just to the White House but to Americans generally.

Where to begin? How about the section in the beginning where Netanyahu, patronizingly, delivers a history of the Iranian regime and its sponsorship of terrorism and insurgency against Americans in the region. Excuse me, but we don’t need to be told, by a foreign leader, how Iran has treated the United States. And then this: “Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.” Again, thanks, but we’ll figure out our foreign policy for ourselves.

So a foreign leader stood up in Congress, insulted not just the President but Americans in general, and the mostly Republican audience gave him 26 standing ovations. Why do Republicans hate America?

Fred Kaplan:

The Israeli prime minister pretended to criticize the specific deal that the United States and five other nations are currently negotiating with Iran, but it’s clear from his words that he opposes any deal that falls short of Iran’s total disarmament and regime change. He pretended merely to push for a “better deal,” but he actually was agitating for war.

Wingnuts think all peace agreements are “appeasement”; war is the only “serious” solution. Hence, 26 standing ovations.

It’s appalling that so many members of the U.S. Congress cheer Netanyahu’s every utterance as some holy oracle, seemingly unaware that many senior Israeli security officers dispute his assertions about the urgency of an Iranian nuclear threat—unaware even that he’s increasingly unpopular among his own citizens. It’s downright unseemly that these same members of Congress cheer his condemnation of the P5+1 deal as “a very bad deal”—they stand up, applaud madly, and howl toward the cameras and galleries—without giving their own president and his diplomats a chance to complete and defend the deal themselves.

Anything to give them an excuse to express their raging hatred of President Obama. That’s what’s really going on here. They’d invite the Devil himself to address Congress if he promised some anti-Obama red meat.

Unfortunately, a few Democrats went along with this circus. I want names, and I want them primaried. This crap has got to stop.

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Does the GOP Fear the Fallout from King v. Burwell? (Updated)

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Congress, Health Care, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Supreme Court

SCOTUS will hear the King v. Burwell case on March 4. This is the case in which it is alleged that states that did not set up their own exchanges under the Affordable Care Act cannot offer federal subsidies to people buying insurance through the federal exchange. The New York Times editorial board says of this,

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in one of the most anticipated cases of the term: King v. Burwell, a marvel of reverse-engineered legal absurdity that, if successful, will tear a huge hole in the Affordable Care Act and eliminate health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans — exactly the opposite of what the law was passed to do.

Even an idiot ought to be able to understand that the primary point of the exchanges is to facilitate people buying individual health policies that can be subsidized. I suspect even some Republicans realize this.

The suit is based on one ambiguously worded sentence in the ACA. In a subsection of the law dealing with tax credits, the ACA describes exchanges “established by the states.” The authors of the bill say this was a vestige of the original assumption that the states would set up their own exchanges. It wasn’t anticipated that so many would refuse to do so. But the Burwell challenge hangs on  those four words — established by the states.

The challengers did not innocently happen upon these words; they went all out in search of anything that might be used to gut the law they had failed to kill off once before, on constitutional grounds, in 2012. Soon after the law passed in 2010, Michael Greve, then chairman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is helping to finance the current suit, said, “This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it.”

After the challengers found the four-word “glitch,” as they initially called it, they worked backward to fabricate a story that would make it sound intentional. Congress, they claimed, sought to induce states to establish exchanges by threatening a loss of subsidies if they did not. (Not coincidentally, the challengers also traveled state to state urging officials not to set up exchanges, thus helping to create the very “crisis” they now decry.) Of course, if Congress intended to introduce a suicide clause into a major piece of federal legislation, it would have shouted it from the mountaintops and not hidden it in a short phrase deep inside a sub-sub-subsection of the law. So it is no surprise that no one involved in passing or interpreting the law — not state or federal lawmakers, not health care journalists covering it at the time, not even the four justices who dissented in the 2012 decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act — thought that the subsidies would not be available on federal exchanges.

So, the purpose of Burwell is to kill Obamacare, and if SCOTUS decides for the plaintiffs, it might very well succeed. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the states without their own exchanges lose subsidies, 13,402,890 Americans who ought to be insured by 2016 will lose out. And the entire law could quickly unravel for everyone, as the health insurance industry is thrown into chaos. I understand roughly 9 million people would lose their insurance almost immediately.

The immediate fallout from a decision for the ACA challengers would, therefore, be chaos and devastation, and the long-term consequences potentially even worse. The ripple affect could impact just about everybody, and probably not in a good way.

 This past week Republicans in Congress seemed almost frantic in demanding the Obama Administration reveal their “Plan B” to the world. What will they do to save the ACA if the subsidies are struck down in so many states? And the Administration has said, over and over, there is no Plan B. If the subsidies are lost, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to salvage anything.

But rightie media are not accepting this. The Administration is hiding Plan B. HHS denies it is preparing Plan B. The Administration won’t say it is preparing Plan B. (Actually, it plainly says there isn’t one and none are in the works.) But there must be a Plan B! How could there not be a Plan B? Of course there is a Plan B, and congressional Republicans demand to know what it is.

Smart money says all this posturing is trying to signal the Court that the actual fallout of a decision for the challengers wouldn’t really be that bad; the Administration has a Plan B! Also, when the dominoes start crashing and people find themselves cut off from health care again, they are prepared to point to the White House — See? They should have had a Plan B. It’s their fault.

Republicans also have proposed a Plan B, although no one who knows anything about health care insurance thinks it will work. And a whopping majority — 64 percent — of Americans think that if SCOTUS rules against the subsidies, Congress immediately should step up and reinstate them. Which Republicans in Congress have no intention of doing.

Which makes me think that at least a few Republicans are genuinely nervous that a ruling in their favor could bite them, hard. Deep down, a few of the less demented among them may really want the White House to jump in with a Plan B and save their butts.

Update: Here’s something interesting — a GOP senator is proposing that if the subsidies are struck down, Congress should extend them for 18 months.

The loss of subsidies for millions of people would also put the Obama administration on the offense for the first time to protect its signature healthcare law.

A White House crusade against the GOP would mean a firestorm of accusations that the party is taking away care and endangering lives  – building up for the 2016 election.

To avoid that situation, some Republicans are floating a stopgap that would keep the subsidies in place temporarily.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) promised this week that he would introduce legislation that creates a “temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare” in which people could still receive financial help for their healthcare costs for 18 months after a court decision.

Startin’ to sweat a bit there, dude?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hinted at a similar proposal earlier in the week, promising “a short-term solution” until a Republican can enter the White House.

By some coincidence, 18 months from the likely date of the decision — end of June, 2015 — would possibly take us just past the 2016 elections.

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Netanyahu Is Not Our Friend

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Congress, Obama Administration

I haven’t said anything about the Netanyahu addressing Congress flap, even after John Boehner admitted he deliberately kept the White House out of the loop when he extended the invitation. I can’t say I entirely understand the Republican Party’s fawning obsequiousness to Bibi. I assume they think making nice with Bibi hurts the President somehow.

But this sheds a different light on things

Concerns that Israeli officials had leaked key details about those negotiations, including that the U.S. offered to let Iran enrich uranium with “6,500 or more centrifuges as part of a final deal,” has prompted the U.S. to limit the amount of sensitive information it exchanges with Israel about the Iran nuclear negotiations, Ignatius reported.

The White House is not confirming this, and it’s possible Ignatius is wrong. But there’s a leak somewhere. Ignatius writes,

This latest breach in the U.S.-Israeli relationship began around Jan. 12 with a phone call from Netanyahu. Obama asked the Israeli leader to hold fire diplomatically for several more months while U.S. negotiators explored whether Iran might agree to a deal that, through its technical limits on centrifuges and stockpiles, extended the breakout period that Iran would need to build a bomb to more than a year. But Netanyahu is said to have responded that a year wasn’t enough and to have reverted to Israel’s hard-line insistence that Iran shouldn’t be allowed any centrifuges or enrichment.

Obama was concerned because the United States had shared with Israel its goal of a one-year breakout period since the beginning of the talks. The White House saw Netanyahu’s comment as a change, one that could potentially scuttle the negotiations. The Israeli response is that Netanyahu has always argued for “zero enrichment.”

Relations began to unravel quickly after the phone call. On Jan. 21, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to address Congress and share his concerns about the talks. The invitation hadn’t been pre-negotiated with the White House, as is usually the case when foreign leaders are invited to address Congress.

Then came the alleged leaks about the nuclear talks. On Jan. 31, the Times of Israel reported that an unnamed senior Israeli official had told Channel 10 TV news that the United States was ready to allow more than 7,000 centrifuges and had “agreed to 80 percent of Iran’s demands.” Channel 2 reported that the U.S. offer was 6,500 centrifuges. U.S. officials believed that Netanyahu’s office was the source of these reports and concluded that they couldn’t be as transparent as before with the Israel leader about the secret talks.

There may have been another time in U.S. history when someone strongly suspected of undermining U.S. foreign policy was invited to address Congress without even notifying the White House, but I wouldn’t know when that might have been.

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More Social Security Warnings

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Congress, Social Security

FYI, the Republican who is now chair of the House Budget Committee wants to cut Social Security. Thought you ought to know.

“What I’m hopeful is what the Budget Committee will be able do is to is begin to normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security. This is a program that right now on its current course will not be able to provide 75 or 80 percent of the benefits that individuals have paid into in a relatively short period of time,” he said at a Heritage Action for America event in Washington, D.C., according to AJC. “That’s not a responsible position to say, ‘You don’t need to do anything to do it.’”

Price, whose predecessor Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) never put forward major reform proposals in his otherwise ambitious budgets, offered means-testing and increasing the eligibility age as possibilities. He also hinted at privatizing Social Security.

“All those things ought to be on the table and discussed,” he said.

The only reason the disability  benefits may have to be cut by 20 percent is that the Republicans forced an arbitrary rule to make it difficult to transfer money to the disability fund from the retirement fund even if there is plenty of money in the retirement fund.  And Social Security overall is in decent shape at the moment and is expected to be in decent shape for close to the next 20 years, which gives us plenty of time to make adjustments without cutting benefits.

(Paul Krugman: “Let us reason together: the dire fate we’re supposed to fear is that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled; and in order to avert that fate we must, um, guarantee through immediate action that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled. Yay! Wait, what?”)

But if Dubya before Katrina couldn’t sell privatizing Social Security, I rather doubt it’s salable. Paul Waldman wrote,

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned just in the past couple of days. We all know that both sides are looking for new policy ideas they can present that will demonstrate their commitment to lifting up middle class and poorer Americans, so what’s on offer? Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has released a plan that includes giving every working American who makes less than six figures a $1,000 tax credit, gives people further tax credits if they save money, limits corporate tax deductions for CEO compensation, and pays for it with a financial transactions tax (presented as a Wall Street “high roller” fee). Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to cut Social Security disability payments.

Heh.

OK, so that’s not entirely fair — Republicans are, in fact, talking about what they can do for less affluent Americans. For instance, Politico reports today that even Mitt Romney has decided that the three pillars of his 2016 campaign will be a “muscular” foreign policy, helping the poor, and supporting the middle class. Which sounds interesting, but at this point it constitutes nothing more than talking about how this is an issue he’s going to be talking about. You have to look pretty hard to find an actual idea Republicans have.

And while they’re figuring that out, it looks like Democrats are going to keep rolling out one policy proposal after another, whether it’s Van Hollen’s tax credit (which other Democrats are also going to be advocating), President Obama’s plan to make community college free, or upcoming pushes on issues like paid family leave and more inclusive overtime rules.

The thing is, though, Dems have to get tough and really talk up each other’s proposals with some aggression, or no one will hear them. And that’s a big if.

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New Congress So Far (Be Afraid)

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Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party

This is just the stuff that happened yesterday.

The House passed its “dynamic scoring” bill directing the Congressional Budget Office to lie about the real effects of legislation on the budget. See also Jonathan Chait, “Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math.”

This story provides a clue why the Republicans are determined to take the CBO in hand and dictate what conclusions it will reach:

One of the House Republican leadership’s first bills of the new Congress will add some $53 billion to the deficit and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans health insurance, according to a new report by Congress’ non-partisan budget office.

The bill, the Save American Workers Act, aims to redefine the number of hours that people work each week before their employers fall under the Affordable Care Act, raising the threshold from 30 hours to 40. Under current law, larger firms that don’t provide health insurance for people who work more than 30 hours will be fined. The bill would raise the fine threshold to 40 hours.

Republicans argue that by requiring companies to provide health benefits to anyone who works more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to less than 30. Analysts say there is no evidence of that alleged trend, however, and a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that involuntary part-time work has actually fallen since the peak of the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The Congressional Budget Office “score” of the bill released Wednesday suggested the shift proposed by the bill could actually worsen the healthcare situation, even as it raises costs to taxpayers.

Republicans can’t have the CBO saying things like that, can they?

Two House Republicans introduced a national 20-week abortion ban. Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that 20 weeks is “very late term.” Huh? A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. Even I can calculate that 20 weeks is the mid point, not “very late.”  Also, too:

Franks compared late abortions to torture in a statement released with the bill.

“More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America,” Franks said Tuesday.

“These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”

I don’t know about the number of abortions at 20 weeks or later in the U.S., but at this time it’s the broad consensus of medical science that a fetus at 20 weeks gestation lacks the nervous system apparatus required to feel pain (see “Navigating the Junk Science of Fetal Pain“).  And no infant born at 20 weeks gestation has ever survived outside the womb in recorded history. The threshold of viability currently is between 22 and 25 weeks, and at the very early end of that a fetus is so impaired that most of the time palliative care only is recommended.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. See Teresa Tritch in the New York Times: “Uh Oh, Republicans Are Trying to ‘Protect’ Social Security Again.”

Buried in the new rules being adopted by the House Republican majority for the current session of Congress is one that the drafters say will “protect” Social Security retirement benefits from being raided to pay for Social Security disability benefits. What this boils down to is using a misleading argument to tee up benefit cuts.

You can read the article for details, but basically the GOP is “fixing” something that ain’t broke. Michael Hiltzik writes at the Los Angeles Times that their “fix” prohibits reallocating money from the retirement fund into the disability fund without  “benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds.” But there was no reason to do that; the disability allocations were not putting the retirement fund in jeopardy. But if this goes through, Hiltzik says, the most likely outcome will be that disability benefits will be cut by 20 percent sometime next year.

It begins.

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Keystone Cop-outs

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Canada, Congress, disasters, natural and unnatural, environment, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Along with dynamic scoring, aka fantasy budgeting, another issue to be pushed by congressional Republicans is approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. There’s a nice op ed in The Hill explaining why Keystone XL is not in our national interest. The main points.

It’s not much of a jobs-creator. “The pipeline company, TransCanada, told the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create 35 permanent U.S. jobs. That’s about half as many workers as it takes to run a McDonald’s.” Further, it will create fewer than 2,000 temporary constructions jobs, and if those are such great jobs why don’t we spend some money and put people to work fixing public infrastructure, hmm?

For that matter, remember when righties cheered when Gov. Chris Christie killed the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel that would have gone under the Hudson River and provided better connections between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan?

The project would have eased overcrowding in Penn Station by building a new rail station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan, and it would have generated 5,700 construction jobs and 44,000 permanent jobs, and increased home values in towns that would now have one-seat service to Manhattan, the study noted.

Yes it cost money, buckets of which the feds had already handed over for the project, and much of which Christie had to hand back. It would have been good for the economies of both New Jersey and New York City and added a lot of value to a lot of businesses. Not to mention lightened the aggravation factor of trying to commute into Manhattan, which half of New Jersey seems to do every day.

And keep in mind that New Jersey under Christie has had terrible job growth numbers. Under Christie, New Jersey jobs growth has been among the slowest in the nation. I’m pretty sure New Jersey beats Kansas, but not many other states. Most damning is that New Jersey has lagged way behind all its neighboring states in jobs growth, especially Delaware and New York.

But we’re talking about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Noting that a lot of the same people who applauded Christie’s killing of the tunnel project are now claiming that Keystone XL is needed to provide jobs, let’s go on to the next point.

The Keystone XL oil is not going to provide more gas for U.S. cars. The oil isn’t for us; it’s meant to be refined and shipped overseas. I think most of the people who support it have some notion that as soon as the pipeline is built all kinds of cheap gas will show up at the local Shell station. It won’t.

If something goes wrong, it could go really really awful bad wrong and cause long-term disaster. The tar sands oil is really dirty oil, the article says, and if it spills or leaks it’s even harder to clean up than most oil. The pipeline is intended to go through many critical wetlands and agricultural areas, and a leak or spill could do huge amounts of damage that no doubt would cost U.S. taxpayers dearly to clean up.

In Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the pipeline would run within a mile of more than 3,000 wells that provide drinking and irrigation water. It would also cross 1,073 rivers, lakes and streams — from the Yellowstone River in Montana to the Platte River in Nebraska — along with tens of thousands of acres of wetlands. Pipeline blowouts are not rare events, and the transport of tar sands oil threatens all those resources. Between 1994 and late 2014, there were nearly 6,000 pipeline blowouts or other serious incidents, spilling a cumulative 100 million gallons of oil and other hazardous liquids. A spill of tar sands crude, which has proven more damaging and difficult to clean up than conventional oil, would make matters worse.

Bottom line, it’s a hugely risky project that would provide very little benefit to the United States and its citizens. Note that a many Canadians want to stop the tar sands oil extraction because it’s doing a lot of environmental damage in Canada.

A pro-pipeline article argues that absent a pipeline, the crude oil is being transferred by train, which (it argues) is even less secure than a pipeline. Also making the oil available on the world’s oil economy would stop OPEC from messing with prices. And, of course, the real long-term answer to that is to learn to be less dependent on fossil fuel, period. Between the deep ocean drilling that caused the contamination of the Gulf of Mexico that still hasn’t been cleaned up properly to the Keystone disaster-in-the-making, we’re basically tearing our planet apart trying to wring every last bit of fossil fuel out of it already. Is there anyone out there foolish enough to think this isn’t going to have to stop sometime, somewhere?

Well, yes, unfortunately. I guess there are.

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Who’s Really Responsible for the Toddler Invasion

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American History, Congress, Immigration, Obama Administration

Two articles to read together today — one is from the New York Times editorial board

The revised legislation sought to appease the hard-liners, who were insisting on swiftly expelling migrant children but also intent on killing the Obama administration’s program to halt the deportations of young immigrants known as Dreamers. Tea Party members believe, delusionally, that the program, called DACA, has some connection to the recent surge of child migrants, who would never qualify for it. On Friday night, the House passed a bill that dragged immigration reform so far to the right that it would never become law. …

…The Senate’s attempt to address the border crisis, meanwhile, is also dead — filibustered by Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who engineered the House revolt, was exultant. Nothing will happen there until September, if then.

Meanwhile, the border crisis is still a crisis and people are suffering. The Border Patrol and refugee programs will run short of money for aiding and processing traumatized children. Immigration courts will still be overloaded, due process will continue to be shortchanged or denied. Because House Republicans killed a comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate more than a year ago, the larger immigration system, choked by obsolete laws, backlogs and bureaucratic breakdowns, still awaits repairs.

Again, it’s important to understand that the Right’s carping about “Dreamers” is a red herring straw man on steroids. The law they claim is responsible for the border crisis does not apply to people crossing the border after June 2012.  Meanwhile, the Right refuses to address the law that does apply, signed by President G.W. Bush, that says these children cannot be deported without a hearing. But Republicans in Congress refuse to provide money to help speed up the hearings; they want to ignore the law and just deport the children. And then they call President Obama a lawless tyrant.

The NY Times editorial is as good a capsule version of where we are with immigration as I’ve found.  Meanwhile, A.W. Gaffney explains who really is responsible for the instability in Central America that is driving so many to take refuge here.

But why is the region so underdeveloped, why is poverty so entrenched, and why has the colonial legacy of inequality proven so resistant to social and political change? Though the situation is admittedly complex, the dismal state of affairs in Central America is in no small part the result of the failure of social democratic and left-of-center governments to maintain power and enact socioeconomic change; this failure, in turn, is sadly (in part) the consequence of the ironic “success” of U.S. foreign policy.

A pattern of U.S. interference with the democratic processes in these Central American countries goes back at least to the 1930s and has continued nearly to the present day. In other words, the U.S. persistently has seen to it that popularly and democratically elected left-leaning leaders were replaced — violently, if necessary –by right-wing despots. And this has a whole lot to do with why these countries are dysfunctional now.

Looking at Congress today, one might argue the U.S. finally is doing to itself what it did to Guatemala — make it an ungovernable mess.  We don’t learn.

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How Not to Win Friends

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Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Following up the last post — this is where the House is going today —

House Republicans pushed legislation on Friday that would clear the way for eventual deportation of more than 500,000 immigrants brought here illegally as kids and address the surge of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After more than a year of inaction on the contentious issue of immigration, House GOP leaders were optimistic about securing tea party and other conservative support for two bills that Republicans can highlight when they return home to voters during Congress’ five-week summer break.

Votes were expected late Friday.

A revised, $694 million border security bill would provide $35 million for the National Guard and clarify a provision on quickly returning unaccompanied minors from Central America to their home countries.

The President had requested $3.7 billion, remember.

To appeal to hard-core immigration foes, Republicans also toughened a companion bill targeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama implemented in 2012 and Republicans blame for the flood of immigrants now.

The bill states that the president cannot renew or expand the program, effectively paving the way for deportation for the children brought here illegally.

Again, the DACA only applies to people who entered the country before June 15, 2012. The more pertinent law is one called the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2008. The law provides that any child entering the country, except for Canadian and Mexican nationals, must be given a full immigration hearing to be sure they aren’t human trafficking victims. That’s the law Congress expects the President to ignore and just deport children without a hearing.

Even if the House passes the bill on Friday, Obama’s request for more money to deal with the border crisis will go unanswered. The Senate blocked its version of a border security bill, and there are no plans to work out any compromise before Congress returns in September.

Emerging from a closed-door GOP meeting, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., rejected the notion that it was a pointless exercise since the Senate won’t act.

“It’ll be the template for what needs to be done and also it might slow the president down,” Mica told reporters.

In other words they lack the political will to do anything, but they can manage to throw up roadblocks to stop anyone else from doing anything.

Also, some less extremist House Republicans are frustrated that senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz are meeting with bagger members of the House and influencing their votes.

Democrats relished the Republican divide, with Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., derisively referring to “Speaker Cruz.

See also Morning Plum: Obama warns GOP — I’m acting alone on immigration.

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Icky Issa

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Congress, Obama Administration

House Democrats issued a strongly worded motion condemning Rep. Darrell Issa for his thuggish behavior. If you haven’t heard about it already, Dana Milbank provides detailed account of what happened yesterday at the House Oversight and Government Reform panel at which Issa made goons seem genteel.

Joan Walsh provides some information I did not know:

Issa had once again called former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to testify before the committee, knowing she was going to again use her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But what Issa didn’t reveal is that Lerner’s attorney had offered last month to share her answers to the committee’s questions via what’s called a “proffer.” That’s when the subject of an investigation reveals the rough outlines of what they know, which can also help determine whether they deserve immunity from prosecution (in order to get them to share more). But Issa rejected the proffer and staged a show trial designed to have Lerner take the Fifth again, in front of television cameras and a packed hearing room.

The Republicans ought to be embarrassed, but of course, they aren’t.

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The Extortionists

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Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The House Republicans still think they will win and the Senate and White House will cave on delaying the ACA for a year.

House Republicans may appear to observers to be pushing the government toward a shutdown, but that’s not even remotely how they see it.

The GOP rank-and-file still believe that the Senate might accept and the White House might sign a one-year delay of Obamacare in exchange for two months of sequester-level spending to briefly stave off a government shutdown.

“How dare you?” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said when reporters asked how the House would respond when the Senate rejected its offer. He grew angrier as he continued to question how one could assume the bill was dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I have never foreseen a government shutdown and I continue not to see a government shutdown,” said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), who was a senior Hill staffer before being elected to Congress in 2010. “The Senate has plenty of time to deal with this. This is good, common middle ground that is in this package. I think we’re gonna get a big bipartisan vote in the House. I think we’re gonna get a big vote in the Senate too.”

A right-wing news outlet reports that House Rules committee attendees actually laughed when someone said the President would veto their bill. They seem supremely confident that either they will win, or if they don’t win nothing bad will happen, or if it does happen people will blame President Obama.

What galls me is that the baggers and the media still talk about the impasse as a “negotiation.” A negotiation happens when two sides agree to give up something they want to get something else they want more. The Republicans are not offering to give up anything they want. If they had offered to raise taxes on the rich or increase the budget for entitlement programs, that would be a negotiation. But they’re saying, in effect, buy our plan or we’ll shoot the dog. That’s not negotiation; that’s extortion.

As I understand it, there are enough votes in the House to pass a clean cr if Boehner would put it up for a vote. But the baggers apparently have Boehner’s boy parts in an industrial compactor.

A government shutdown would be bad, but not nearly as catastrophic as a failure to raise the debt ceiling, which is going to have to be done within the next couple of weeks. Ezra Klein argues that it’s a good thing the baggers are throwing their temper tantrum over the cr, and when they lose it will make it less likely they’ll pull the same stunt over the debt ceiling. I think that’s wishful thinking, though.

Bill Keller has an interesting thought:

The Republicans are finally having their ’60s. Half a century after the American left experienced its days of rage, its repudiation of the political establishment, conservatives are having their own political catharsis. Ted Cruz is their spotlight-seeking Abbie Hoffman. (The Texas senator’s faux filibuster last week reminded me of Hoffman’s vow to “levitate” the Pentagon using psychic energy.) The Tea Party is their manifesto-brandishing Students for a Democratic Society. Threatening to blow up America’s credit rating is their version of civil disobedience. And Obamacare is their Vietnam.

To those of us who lived through the actual ’60s, the conservative sequel may seem more like an adolescent tantrum than a revolution. For obvious starters, their mobilizing cause is not putting an end to an indecent war that cost three million lives, but defunding a law that promises to save lives by expanding access to insurance. Printing up unofficial “Obamacare Cards” and urging people to burn them is a silly parody of the protest that raged 50 years ago. But bear with me.

There are significant differences, of course. For example, the 1960s New Left stayed out of party politics and never became a force within the Democratic Party. But I think the differences are in keeping with the temperaments and psyches of righties and lefties. Lefties want equality and justice; righties want power.

See also Paul Krugman, “Rebels Without a Clue.”

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