There Oughta Be A Law
Posted November 12, 2016on:
Happy Weekend everyone. I’m filling in for Fredster today because I think we can all agree that if Fredster needs a break, Fredster gets a break! I know we usually do a music post on weekends, but I can’t think of a genre to suit the mood. I don’t think we want mellow and slow. (seems sad) If I hear cheery and up beat I just might throw something at the screen. So I thought I’d go with something else.
When I started bookmarking these links in September, planning this post for November, I had a completely different scenario of the future in mind. It’s neither here nor there for the post, but it’s certainly not for some outcomes. Please keep in mind my links are from September/October when the action was happening.
On Monday, November 14th, our wonderful legislators will be back from their latest month-long vacation to begin the “lame duck” session. So, let’s look back to where they left off when they adjourned at the end of September.
They did manage to pass a stop gap budget to prevent a government shutdown, at least until December 9th. Since they haven’t passed an actual, full-on budget since 1997, when Bill Clinton was President, I guess it’s the best we can hope for.
The biggest stickler was funds for Flint, MI. Nancy Pelosi insisted the Democrats would be willing to shut down the government if the Flint aid was not there. Mitch McConnell was adamant that the Flint aid be put into the Water Resources Development Act instead. The Dems had no problem with that. They just didn’t trust them as far as they could throw them to actually do it.
“It isn’t promised that it will be in there. It’s promised that it will be considered,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday.
Pelosi said the bottom line for Democrats is that Flint funding needs to end up in one of the two bills by week’s end, and it doesn’t necessarily matter which one.
“We’re hoping to leverage it one way or another,” she said. “Our minority caucuses do not want to vote for a bill that does not have Flint in it.”
With House Republicans sounding so sketchy on including Flint funding in the WRDA, Democrats seem to have taken a firm line. “Put it in the CR, put it in the WRDA bill that’s in the House now ― not some promise that, ‘Oh well, we’ll pass the WRDA bill and maybe it will be in conference,’” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was also skeptical of Ryan’s promises. “Why isn’t he making it happen? Why isn’t he helping us? We can’t trust the House,” she said in a Senate floor speech.
The Democrats stood their ground on this. It was obvious McConnell and Ryan had no intention of including Flint in the WRDA either. They believe it’s a state issue and not up to the Feds. After much rigamarole, bluster and threats, Flint was included in the WRDA and both bills passed. Flint was allotted $170 million. That seems like a measly amount to me considering their needs. (Zika funding got a cool billion) I’m fairly certain Flint will not see another dime, at least for the next four years. What do they care? It’s only real human lives we’re talking about.
The criminal justice reform bill (Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act) came within an inch of passing. They’ve been working on this for two years and it has HUGE bi-partisan support. It’s supported by Obama and Newt Gingrich. Koch Industries and the ACLU. The conservative group Freedom Works and the liberal group the Center for American Progress. It’s been a year since they held their big press conference.
“This is truly a landmark piece of legislation and is the biggest criminal-justice reform in a generation,” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said at the time, flanked by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans. “There are things in here that each of us like. There are items that each of us would rather do without. But this is how the process works here in Congress.”
They had the votes, they knew it would pass and that Obama was ready to sign. But, nooooo! I don’t care about their excuses. It’s not they didn’t have time, it’s not even dysfunction. It’s because they were heading home to face their base and looking to be reelected. Any vote, yes or no, before elections is based on saving their own hides. They left whining about getting it done in the lame-duck session. (bold is mine)
Advocates are looking to the Lame Duck, the session after Election Day before the end of the year, for action, hoping that a post-election environment will help the cause.
But Lame Duck will be difficult because the legislation still has to pass both the House and the Senate, a huge feat in a slow-moving process.
Funny how a couple of months and a Presidential election can completely flip things 180. I’m sure McTurtle’s “probably not” turned into a big “hell no” on November 9th. After all, Obama really wanted this and McConnell can’t have that.
But on Thursday, McConnell threw water on any hope of bringing it before the Senate in the lame duck session when lawmakers return after the election, chalking it up to disagreement in his caucus.
“We’ve got about three weeks back here after the election,” McConnell said, adding that his priorities are funding the government and an appropriations bill for medical research.
“With regard to the criminal justice issue, it’s very divisive in my conference,” McConnell said. “I’ve got very, very smart, capable people without regard to ideology who have different views on that issue. Whether we can take up something that controversial with that amount of limited time available, I doubt.”
Paul Ryan claims to be a proponent of the bill and yet… (bold is mine)
Sentencing reform is still one of Ryan’ priorities, though he failed to start considering the issue in September like he’d originally planned.
“We have more work to do to talk with our members about the merits of criminal justice reform,” Ryan said Thursday.“There are a lot of our members who just have not looked into this issue well enough and it’s those undecided members who have not formed opinions that we’re going to be communicating with in the weeks ahead.”
Paul, Paul, Paul. If you have members who don’t know enough about a bill that’s been floating around two years, please sit them down and speak to them as if they are 3rd graders. Then, tell us who they are so we can point and laugh.
Even though it would save us beaucoup bucks (80 billion a year) and the majority of the country wants it, that’s not important. McConnell has an Obama win to kill. If they can’t get this bill through this session for Obama to sign, it will never see the light of day, at least for the next four years with AG Giuliani. But, hey! It’s only real human lives at stake here!
The 911 bill, JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) would allow families of the victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia. That’s really extraordinary. I’m not sure how I feel about the bill itself, but I sure can’t blame the families for wanting to hold someone accountable for financing that operation. It seems like a pretty big challenge to sue Saudi billionaires, but I’m sure there is a passel of attorneys lined up to give them a hand. (no offense to any lawyers who may be around *cough cough*)
Now, Obama had explained why this was a bad idea and when the bill got to his desk he vetoed as promised and released a three page statement saying why.
In a three-page statement explaining his decision, Obama said he has “deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), who have suffered grievously. I also have a deep appreciation of these families’ desire to pursue justice and am strongly committed to assisting them in their efforts.”
But, Obama believed the bill was misguided and argued it would open up US government personnel and service members to lawsuits overseas.
JASTA threatens to reduce the effectiveness of our response to indications that a foreign government has taken steps outside our borders to provide support for terrorism, by taking such matters out of the hands of national security and foreign policy professionals and placing them in the hands of private litigants and courts… Second, JASTA would upset longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity, putting in place rules that, if applied globally, could have serious implications for U.S. national interests.
Well, the Senators wanted to go home before their elections and brag to the voters how they “stood with the American people” so every single one, except Harry Reid, voted to override the veto. Was Harry the only one that read Obama’s statement? Before they even got out the door they started having regrets. Mitch McConnell, bless his little black heart, blamed it on Obama’s ‘failure to communicate’. Did he not read the damn three page statement?!
Even 28 lawmakers who had just helped to pass the first override of Obama’s presidency sent a letter to their own leaders Thursday saying maybe there should be changes.
So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leveled at least partial blame on Obama.
“That was a good example, it seems to me, of a failure to communicate early about the potential consequences of a piece of legislation,” McConnell told reporters before Congress got out of town until after the elections. “By the time everybody seemed to focus on some potential consequences of it, members had already basically taken a position.”
“I think it was just a ball dropped,” McConnell added. “I wish the president — I hate to blame everything on him, and I don’t — but it would have been helpful had he, uh, we had a discussion about this much earlier than last week.”
Paul Ryan, who didn’t even vote:
“I’d like to think that there’s a way we could fix [it] so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas, while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who backed the bill in public statements though he did not cast a vote during Wednesday’s override.
Every once in a while, someone accidently tells the truth.(bold is mine)
“I share Senator Corker’s frustration on JASTA,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said, referring to the bill by its acronym. But he faulted “circumstances that neither he nor I could control, nor could the administration control – and that is the timing of JASTA required us to take the veto override before the recess.”
Boy, they sure have a whole lot of ‘fixing’ to do in the lame duck session. I don’t know how they will accomplish that since McTurtle says he only has time for the budget and medical research. (whatever that means) Do these guys have a single clue of what they’re doing?
Please feel free to post any music you like. I know Leonard Cohen is on a lot of people’s minds this week. And let’s hear your latest thoughts and share some linky goodness! Open thread.
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