House of Representatives

#Neobamacare: The Good and (Mostly) Bad of the House GOP Health Care Plan

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When Obamacare passed in 2010, it marked a turning point in American politics from which we will almost certainly never recover. For fans, this was a good thing. For foes, necessarily bad. But a few permanent truths emerged that our current discourse must acknowledge.

We’re stuck with it now, and the main purpose of our politics will be to reform it every 4 years. That’s the point of any government-driven health care - having your own team control it.

And in that vein House Republicans have introduced their own version of health care reform reform - the American Health Care Act. President Trump has endorsed it, and HHS Secretary Price, who would implement it if passed, has called it a good first step in the process.

But the first step in the process was supposed to be repealing Obamacare itself in full. That’s what almost every Republican has campaigned on since the Tea Party wave in 2010. The AHCA doesn’t repeal the ACA in full, and in fact doubles down on much of it, just in a Republican way instead of a Democratic way.

Boehner Resigns, Unifies Right and Left in Celebration more than Pope Francis

Something has happened this morning that we have not seen in a long age - conservatives and liberals are united. No, they’re not all celebrating Pope Francis’ message of unity and equality, though there’s some of that, and the papal visit is related. No, what has brought both sides together is the announcement that Speaker John Boehner will resign both his leadership position and House seat at the end of this October.

Apparently speaking to the Pope yesterday moved Boehner so much that he has decided to step down. And who can blame him? Since his ascendancy after Republicans took back the House in 2010, there have been constant calls for his replacement. He’s been called a RINO, a sell-out, a stand-in for the real Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and worse. Conservatives never supported him strongly enough (though most kept reelecting him to the position), and Democrats opposed him on nearly everything.

Boehner was also constantly mocked for his emotional rawness. But again, who can blame him? He’s in awe of his country, his government, despite its flaws, and his position within it. I well up every time I hear the Star-Spangled Banner at a sporting event. I can’t imagine being elected to a government position by your fellow citizens and feeling the overwhelming responsibility and trust that entails.

The Senate Letter to Iran is Dumb, But Not Unprecedented

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In case you still consider the left to be great defenders of free speech, please be advised that nearly half the US Senate is being accused of treason for the heinous crime of writing a letter.

That letter, written by the junior senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, was sent to Iran. In it, Cotton and the other 46 signatories lay out the constitutional case that a potential nuclear disarmament (or armament, depending on your perspective) deal must be approved by Congress. Here is the full letter:

letter

Cotton is right, of course. While the chief executive conducts foreign policy, he can only make treaties with the consent of 2/3 of the US Senate. But that’s precisely what makes this so silly and pointless.

Why would Cotton & Co bother pointing this out to Iran? His chamber has the last say on any deal with Iran. If anyone needs to be reminded of that, it’s the White House, who has suggested otherwise. To go around the White House and engage a foreign government directly, especially while negotiations are ongoing, is petty and unseemly.

President Obama’s first message to the new Republican majority tells you how the next two years will go

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Upon receiving his second and final midterm electoral thumping last November, President Obama vowed to work with the new Congress and its Republican majorities in both House and Senate. On Sunday, Obama reiterated his pledge:

“I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done,” Obama told reporters before leaving on his annual end-of-the-year holiday in Hawaii. “We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.”

But Tuesday, while the new Congress was being sworn in and voting for their caucus leadership, Obama sent his real message to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner: roughly, “GFY”:

“I can confirm that the president would not sign this [Keystone XL] bill,” Earnest said at a White House press briefing when asked about legislation set to advance in Congress this week that would greenlight the project.

It takes a lot of guts to project an image of bipartisanship, compromise, and utilitarian pragmatism and then threaten vetoes of bills that haven’t even been introduced. At least give them a day to put their names on the doors.

Well, this is an awful idea: There’s a push on the Hill to require Congress to work five days a week

It might sound like a good idea, but the latest call to make Congress work more probably is the most dangerous piece of legislation we’ve seen since the “you’ve got to pass it to know what’s in it” ObamaCare atrocity. Sure, the logic is that the taxpayers are paying lawmakers a (more than) fair amount of money yearly, considering wages, benefits and perks. The problem is that unlike other professions, getting “more bang for the buck” definitely should not include forcing longer work hours, at least not on the Hill.

TheHill.com reports:

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would require the House and Senate to work five days a week.

Congress is on a five-week August recess, which prevents Nolan from introducing his bill until the House comes back into session on Sept. 8.

The House and Senate rarely work five days a week in Washington. Each chamber typically is only in session for two full days and two half days per week, and lawmakers often spend the remaining half of the week back home in their districts.

Beyond requiring longer working hours, this bill would require open debate on all bills. While that might be a good idea, forcing longer sessions on the Hill definitely wouldn’t be a good idea. Our problem now is that we have far too many laws, so solutions to our problems do not include encouraging lawmakers to create more of them. Otherwise, it’s at least a little amusing to consider the irony that this bill hasn’t been introduced because Congress is in summer recess.

Massie Drops Two Bills in Defense of Raw Milk Distribution

raw milk

Farmers across America continue to be harassed and fined for distributing unprocessed milk. This has been a problem to hard-working American families even before former congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced his Unpasteurized Raw Milk Bill, HR 1830, in 2011.

Now, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has announced he is dropping two separate bills addressing the same issues with the goal of restoring the farmers’ right to distribute milk, and the consumer’s right to choose what he or she wants to put in their own bodies.

Dairy farmers across the country find themselves in trouble with the law over the Food and Drug Administration’s strict guidelines, which end up pushing the raw milk business to the sidelines, turning it into a black market and thus increasing the risks associated with the poor processing quality. When laws are too strict, farmers can no longer make use of the protection of an open market where they compete freely. Consumers are the ones who lose.

While many doctors continue to defend the reasons why people may prefer to drink raw milk, many others will say that raw milk is in fact hazardous and must be kept from consumers, for their own good.

While the open debate is always important, banning a consumer item solely on the premises that it may eventually cause somebody harm is just not compatible with living in a free society, where individuals are aware they might have to face certain risks every now and then but are also entirely free to opt out.

Texas Candidates “Reject the Debt”

Debt Clock

Coming out of a brutal series of losses in last fall’s fiscal fights, budget hawks are facing tough odds.

Some commentators have gone as far as to say that fiscal restraint has been defeated in Congress, with the heyday of 2010 giving way to a situation in which those who want to cut spending and reign in looming deficits and debt have taken a “back seat.”

Have deficit hawks finally been defeated? Is big spending the new norm?

Not if a cadre of Texas candidates has anything to do with it.

On Monday, the Coalition to Reduce Spending announced that 14 candidates for federal office from across the state had signed the Coalition’s Reject the Debt pledge ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The pledge requires elected officials to (1) consider all spending open for reduction, (2) vote only for budgets with a path to balance, and (3) offset any new spending with cuts elsewhere.

The signatories include Tea Party favorites like Katrina Pierson and Matt McCall, in a diverse scattering of candidates from across the state. The Coalition has also been in touch with various third party and Democratic challengers and expects more candidates to jump on after the primary.

“Washington won’t change until we change the incentives of the people we send there,” Coalition President Jonathan Bydlak said. “Candidates have to hold themselves accountable, or we have to do it for them. I’m pleased to see this group willing to hold themselves to fiscal restraint.”

Time for a New Narrative on Food Stamps

Food Stamps (SNAP)

By this time, if you follow politics at all, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the farm bill. Passed Tuesday, this bill represents nearly $1 trillion in new spending, with typical promises for paltry reform over the next decade.

At risk of presumption, the problems with the farm portion are rather obvious. It’s no surprise that 85% of economists from across the ideological spectrum oppose farm subsidies. It seems commonly accepted that the “farm bill” long ago ceased to be a temporary relief for struggling family farmers and has instead become a hefty bonus check for some of the biggest corporate agriculture. For example, the richest farmers get the most subsidies, and just three firms received the most in sugar subsidies last year. And Tuesday’s bill did little to address these issues.

A program so misguided is easy to attack. But unfortunately, the farm portion is a very small part of the “farm” bill. And the other part backs people who want to save the next generation from massive debt into quite a tough corner.

Passing a federal budget is neither necessary nor wise

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As the partial federal government shutdown enters its second week, the calls for a “grand bargain” to solve all and sundry income and revenue issues have returned. The idea that Congress should pass a single, all-encompassing budget, even a balanced one, is a collective mental plague spread by inertia that must be eradicated.

Congress has not passed a full budget to fund the federal government since April 2009. Since then, unable to reach a deal on a full budget, spending has been controlled by successive continuing resolutions, adjusting total government funding levels for short periods of weeks or months each time.

Many say we have to be responsible and pass a real budget. But the truth is the concept of a single federal budget is actually pretty new. While the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 created the first federal budget process, it wasn’t until the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 that the current version of mandatory budget proposals and resolutions was adopted. For the 150-200 years before that, all federal funding was appropriated with specific bills for programs or departments.

The Rise of Digital On Demand Media

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This morning I was a mentor. This afternoon, a boss. Later, after lunch, an employee which, in turn, allowed for me to provide for my family. Let’s not forget this evening when I opened my books and was a student.

If this were my life a decade ago I would quite easily forget, or neglect, my right to know what was going on around me in my community, my state, my nation, and my world. The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, The NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, or CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and Anderson Cooper 360º would have just past me by without notice.

Today, with the revolution of online media and digital forms of journalism it allows for any multi-tasking individual with ADD, such as myself, to stay current with events happening around the world, or just down the street. The depth that I want to consume myself in the information depends solely on how much time I have in between appointments. I tell Anderson Cooper when he can and cannot speak.

Getting information about current events through internet sources has given me the opportunity to stay informed on the go. Corporate news networks on television dictate when you can listen and they have the same tone and message with slightly different undertones and agendas to appeal to a certain demographic, but still manage to deliver the same generic stories.


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