Tag Archives: legislation

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,





Hold your nose and swallow

medicinekidsClose your eyes. Hold your nose. Open your mouth. Now swallow. – That’s how my mom tried to keep me from gagging when taking medicine. That’s what our Democrat leaders are telling us now about health care “reform.”

Another gigantic example of big event legislation. A massive bill way too big to fail – or read – or understand – or debate. Chock full of things for just about every special interest so Dems can finally deliver a health care bill.

  • No insurance? We’ll give it to you.
  • Can’t afford insurance? We’ll help you.
  • Uninsurable? No longer.
  • Have insurance? We’re not going to change a thing.
  • On medicare? We’ll close the prescription donut hole.
  • Own insurance or pharma stocks? We’ll increase your markets and your profits.
  • A health care provider? We won’t set prices.
  • Against a woman’s right to choose? Us, too.
  • Against expanding Medicare? Us, too.
  • Against a public option? It will be in name only.
  • Anti-deficit? It’s paid for with savings and new taxes.
  • Anti-health care reform? Your state can opt out.
  • Anti-Obama? Won’t go into effect until after the next presidential election.
  • Anti-immigrant? Us, too.
  • Own a business? Have we got some loopholes for you.
  • Middle class poor with lots of debt? Okay, nothing for you, but didn’t we just pass a tax cut and credit card reform?
  • Healthy and just starting out? There are no jobs anyway, go for Medicaid.
  • Work on K Street? You’ll make your bonus.
  • An accountant or lawyer? Consider it a bailout.

H.R.3590 – Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 (this is the actual name of Senate health care bill which is an amendment of a bill already in the cue to speed it up – aka: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) runs some 2,074 pages containing 327,911 words (War and Peace has 561,893 words). It is the poster child example of the preferred way to govern these days: one gigantic omnibus bill that no one authors (or is to blame) and no one really knows who (or what lobby firm) added or compromised what that ends up in it. Bills that can be labeled, branded, lobbied, spun and base-rallied pro or con. Legislation to do everything, will last forever and we’ll fix down the road, depending upon who is in the majority down the road. This type of legislation is the reason politics is so partisan. And, this is what I hate about health care reform.

Dew_BillWordCounts

Note on the numbers in the chart: I downloaded the documents (transcripts of the older document) and used Microsoft Word’s word count tool. Some of the documents included signers, secretary notes, enactment dates, and other information that may cause count to vary slightly.

Couldn’t we have broken out a few things that we all believe in? Small, understandable bills that could be bipartisan? Simple language to solve some basic problems that simple people could believe government could actually accomplish? Incremental reforms to fix what we all might agree is broken?

  • Why do we have to debate the public option to get rules changed so preexisting conditions don’t prevent people from getting insurance?
  • Why do we have to debate whether every business will be forced to offer – and every individual will be forced to have – insurance in order that individuals and mom and pop businesses are allowed to join group plans at a reasonable cost?
  • Why do we have to agree not to negotiate prescription prices in order to have higher penalties for people who commit Medicare fraud?
  • Why do we have to debate subsidies for the uninsured, just so we can get rid of subsidies of private insurance companies offering Medicare (or at least require them to report quality of care results)?
  • Why do we have to debate changes in tort so that we can pass legislation to cover newborns who don’t have insurance?
  • Or require reporting on the effectiveness of drugs, medical tests and procedures? Or require electronic reporting? Or remove lifetime limits? Or limiting waiting periods? Or insurance plan transparency? Or transparency of physician ownership and investments? Or investments in primary care provider training? Or nursing student loans? Or funding for a National Health Service Corps? Or a national and state background checks for facilities and providers? Or medical bankruptcy prevention? Or improvements in access to immunizations? Or addressing childhood obesity? Or hospice reform? Or chronic disease prevention? Etc.

Wouldn’t it seem more civilized to pass specific bills that we agree on rather than bundling those we agree on with a bunch of controversial issues forcing our representatives to vote up or down on the whole package – or, God forbid, break with their party?

Why can’t we have a separate debate/vote on a public option or expanding Medicare? And a separate debate/vote on allowing insurance companies to compete in national markets? And a separate debate/vote on requiring everyone to have some form of coverage?

What is really going on here? Our leaders just don’t have much faith in us. They act as if they believe that the only way they can build a constituency to pass a bill is to make the issue seem to have epic proportions. To frame a debate as one that threatens our existence or our way of life. To excite the base, shake out the campaign contributions, get TV face time and get reelected. They did this to invade Iraq (Vietnam, Korea, Philippines, Mexico, Indian Wars, etc.). To bail out Wall Street (protect many other industries). And now, to pass health care “reform.”

We need our health care industry reformed. We must find ways to stablize costs. We must become more efficient and more competitive. We must do better in preventive care. We must discuss as a society, how the poor, the unfortunately sick and the innocent should receive health services. We also must find common ground, or we may lose more in the process than gained by any victory or defeat of the bill.

This bill is not about really about “reform” – I sincerely wish it were since I hear and read so much about it. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of great stuff mixed in the 2,074 pages – important, life-improving and life-and-money-saving stuff. But much of this bill and almost all of the cost, is about expansion of health care insurance for those who can’t afford insurance, don’t choose to buy it (preferring, in most cases I suspect, to eat or have shelter), or have been denied it. Reform is mostly packaging.

As a result, we’ll probably get a compromise of a “reform” law. A compromise of a benefit for the uninsured. Certainly a more divided country. And, we’ll probably have to do it all again some day soon because many of the real issues won’t have been honestly included, debated in daylight, voted on, or made sustainable.

On the other hand, what an historic achievement to get it this close. Maybe it really does take this cynical, scare-the-hell-out-of-everyone, Rahm Emanuel-pit bull-but-open-to-compromise-approach to get something done? Please weigh-in with your comments.


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