Tag Archives: Congress

Duty and Honor

Posted by: BetsM

Op-ed by Gary Hart

Gary HartOf the many reasons for public discontent with government generally and Congress particularly, none is more obvious than the wholesale movement of former members of both Houses of Congress into the lobbying business. The massive lobbying industry is quick to remind us that lobbying is perfectly legal, or perhaps it is better to say not illegal, and that it has been going on from the beginning of parliaments. That may be technically true, but it neglects the critical point that, when conducted by former members of Congress, and now increasingly their wives and children, lobbying is a sophisticated way of trading titles provided by voters for substantial personal gain.

No one truly believes that John Doe is as valuable to his lobbying firm and its corporate clients as former Senator John Doe is. Senator John Doe adds prestige to the firm. More importantly, he can open doors in the offices of his former colleagues. In the lobbying business, that is pure gold. The core and centerpiece of the lobbying business is ACCESS. It is possible to count on the fingers of one hand the number of members of Congress who refuse to see a former colleague.

My relatively few years in elective office spanned a critical transition time. Very few of my Senate colleagues from the 1970s became lobbyists. For most of the great ones it was a matter of self-respect and personal honor. By the time I retired from office in the later 1980s, not only former Senators but also their wives and sons and daughters were joining or forming lobbying firms and making a very great deal of money. It would take more than blog space permits to analyze the reasons for this transformation. But much of it had to do with the triumph of money over that earlier sense of personal honor. No American has the right to trade an office and a title bestowed upon him or her by the people for personal gain.

Senators Michael Bennet and Jon Tester are sponsoring legislation to bar Senators from lobbying for life. I would find it amazing if there were even committee hearings on this proposal, let alone a vote on the floor of the Senate. But such a measure would do more to demonstrate that the current Senate is serious about recapturing its dignity, its respect, and its sense of honor than any other single step I can think of. And perhaps most of all, it would go a very long way to restoring the confidence of the people in their government.

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Violence Erupts Over Health Care Bill

Posted by: Bluedog89

The Monroe County Democratic Committee in Rochester, New York, is vandalized by anti-health care legislation protesters. Photo courtesy WHEC.

CNN~Shots fired at a congressman’s campaign headquarters. Windows smashed at Democratic offices across the country. A coffin placed on a lawmaker’s lawn. Hate-filled voice mail messages left on members of Congress’ phone lines.

Those are just some of the incidents reported since the House passed historic health care reform legislation Sunday — a bill that became the law of the land.

The issue has unleashed a deep-seated anger from those worried about a government takeover of health care, and what they deem as the process being “rammed through” Congress.

James Leach, with the National Endowment for the Humanities, said that while many of the acts may be protected under First Amendment rights, “that doesn’t mean that they’re morally justified.”

“And we have to think of ourselves as, ‘what kind of people are we?’ ” Leach said. “Are we one people working together with rival thoughts, or are we enemies within? And I think there’s something that’s been let loose in American politics that has to be thought about.”

That anger was visible in unruly protests by health care activists at the Capitol over the weekend.

Republican House members encouraged protesters outside and inside the House gallery, some of whom carried messages like “Vote no or else” or “If Brown won’t stop it, a Browning will” — a reference to newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown accompanied by a silhouette of a pistol.

But the anger has boiled over into physical and verbal threats. Windows have been smashed at Democratic offices in at least three states, and federal agents are investigating whether a cut gas line at the home of a Virginia congressman’s brother was related to the lawmaker’s yes vote.

Republicans have the right to be angry over the Democrat’s health care bill, but “resorting to violent measures is exactly the wrong way to send a message,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Thursday night.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, confirmed Thursday that his district office in Queens received an envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter.

Later Thursday, Weiner told CNN that initial tests indicated the powder was not a biological agent, but that he still was awaiting final word from the New York Police Department. Workers at the office turned over their clothes for testing and were given protective suits before being allowed to go home a few hours later, Weiner said.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now looking into the threats, and at least 10 House Democrats have been given extra security.

The voice mail has been vicious toward Michigan’s Bart Stupak, who switched his vote to seal the deal for the bill. He has released one of the voice mails.

“Stupak, you are a lowlife, baby-murdering scumbag, pile of steaming crap. You’re a cowardly punk, Stupak, that’s what you are. You and your family are scum,” an unidentified caller said. “That’s what you are, Stupak. You are a piece of crap.”

“Go to hell, you piece of [expletive deleted]” another caller said.

On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri had a coffin placed on his lawn, said his spokeswoman, Sarah Howard. She said Tea Party protesters at his office in St. Louis had a coffin with them and later brought it to his house. The coffin was later removed, she said.

Democratic congressional leaders have demanded Republicans join them in condemning a spate of threats and vandalism that has followed Sunday’s vote on the health care system overhaul.

The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, condemned the threats and vandalism, telling reporters Thursday that it “should not be part of a political debate.”

“There are ways for people to channel their anger, and they should do it in a constructive way,” he said.

Liz Mair, a Republican consultant, said protesters “are unfortunately crossing a line.”

“When we’re talking about violence, vandalism, threats, that crosses a legal line, in addition to being in plain old bad taste,” Mair said. “And I think that there’s a lot that is in plain old bad taste that is going on.”

Democrats aren’t the only ones being targeted.

Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, said Thursday that a bullet had been fired through a window at his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia.

A Richmond police spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that a bullet was fired at the congressman’s office. “We are investigating the circumstance surrounding it,” spokeswoman Karla Peters said.

Cantor also said that he had received threatening messages but that he would not publicly release the messages out of concern that doing so would only incite further violence.

He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — a member of the Democratic House leadership — of “fanning the flames” of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members “as political weapons.”

“Enough is enough,” Cantor said. “It has to stop.”

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hit back against Cantor’s claims.

“We disagree with the charge made by Rep. Cantor today that Democrats are using acts of violence for political gain,” he said. “Let’s be clear: Calling on Republican leaders who have contributed in part to this anger by wildly mischaracterizing the substance and motives of health reform to condemn these acts is entirely appropriate.”

Another Republican — Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida — said in a news release Thursday that she received what appeared to be a death threat on her district office’s voice mail.

“Just wanna let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this b**** does not live to see her next term. Goodbye,” the voice mail said, according to the release.

Brown-Waite said she contacted both the Capitol Police and the Hernando County sheriff, and they are “looking into the matter and subpoenaing telephone records.”

At least one of the threats aimed at lawmakers appears to be racially based.

House Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn, who is African-American, said he has received a fax in his office with a picture of a noose drawn on it and had threatening telephone calls at his home.

“We’re giving aid and comfort to these people, and this stuff gets ratcheted up,” Clyburn told CNN. “We in this Congress have got to come together in a bipartisan way and tamp this foolishness down. It doesn’t make sense. That’s not what a democracy is all about.”

Democratic officials and liberal Web sites are also upset that Sarah Palin used an image of crosshairs in a Facebook post this week listing 20 vulnerable Democrats who voted for the legislation. She plans to target them this election year with money from her political action committee.

Palin’s political “hit list” includes: Which Democrats has she singled out?
The list includes: Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Harry E. Mitchell (AZ), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), John Salazar (CO), Betsy Markey (CO). Allen Boyd (FL), Suzanne M. Kosmas (FL), Baron P. Hill (IN), Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL), Charlie Wilson (OH), John Boccieri (OH), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), Christopher Carney (PA), John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC), Tom Perriello (VA), Alan B. Mollohan (WV), and Nick J. Rahall II (WV).

Palin’s team is fighting claims that she is encouraging threats of violence. One House member mentioned her Facebook posting during a Wednesday meeting on safety concerns, a Democratic source told CNN’s Dana Bash. Mention of the map brought audible groans to the room, the source said.

An adviser to Palin responded by pointing to several instances in which the former Alaska governor has urged supporters to focus their energies on civil debate and action at the ballot box, not extremist activities.

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“Dear Wavering House Democrats” an open letter on Health Care Reform

cross-posted from T-Time

“I am your worst-case scenario…  I voted my conscience, and it cost me. And I’d do it all again.”

By Mary Margolies-Mezvinski

Dear wavering House Democrats,
I feel your pain. Eighteen years ago, I was elected on the coattails of a popular young Democratic president who promised a post-partisan Washington. A year later, with partisan gridlock capturing the Capitol, there was a razor-thin vote on the House floor over legislation that Democrats said would remake the country and Republicans promised would bankrupt it.

I was pressed on all sides: by constituents opposed, my president needing a victory and Republicans promising my demise. I was in the country’s most Republican district represented by a Democrat. I had repeatedly said, “I will not be a ‘read my lips’ candidate,” when asked if I would promise not to raise taxes, I voted my conscience, and it cost me…

… Simply put, you could be Margolies-Mezvinskied whether you vote with or against President Obama. You will be assailed no matter how you vote this week. And this job isn’t supposed to be easy. So cast the vote that you won’t regret in 18 years.

Read the full letter here: ‘VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE’

Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinski is a former member of Congress and co-founder of, Women’s Campaign International.


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CBO Score On Health Care Bill Released: Boosts Democrats’ Hopes Of Passing Reform

From: Ryan Grimm HP
Comprehensive health care reform will cost the federal government $940 billion over a ten-year period, but will increase revenue and cut other costs by a greater amount, leading to a reduction of $130 billion in the federal deficit over the same period, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, a Democratic source tells HuffPost. It will cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years.

The source said it also extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years and reduces the rate of its growth by 1.4 percent, while closing the doughnut hole for seniors, meaning there will no longer be a gap in coverage of medication. The CBO also estimated it would extend coverage to 32 million additional people.

The CBO score is the last piece House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was waiting on before putting the puzzle together on the House floor. A contingent of Blue Dogs has been holding out support, insisting that the bill be fully paid for and not increase the deficit. The numbers give a major boost to Pelosi and her leadership team, which can now begin the whip count in earnest and can specifically point to the cost savings.

Read the scoring : CBO(pdf)


WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democrats are on track for a Sunday vote on sweeping health care legislation that will expand coverage to millions of uninsured while also reducing the federal deficit, leaders said Thursday. The bill delivers on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority by providing coverage to more than 30 million people now uninsured at a 10-year cost of $940 billion. It does so through a combination of tax credits for middle class households and an expansion of the Medicaid program for low income people.

House Dems on track for vote on $940B health bill

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Kucinich says “Yea” to Health Care Reform

BREAKING:  Health bill gains ground; weekend vote likely

President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation won precious support from a longtime liberal holdout in the House on Wednesday and from Catholic nuns representing dozens of religious orders, gaining fresh traction in the run-up to a climactic weekend vote. “It’s a good sign,” said Obama, two weeks after taking personal command of a campaign to enact legislation in what has become a virtual vote of confidence in his still-young presidency.

Cross-posted from T-Time

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has announced his intention to vote yes for passage of President Obama’s Health Care Reform legislation…

Kucinich Will Vote ‘For’ Democrats’ Health Care Overhaul

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, just dropped his opposition to the health care overhaul legislation being championed by his party and President Barack Obama.

“I have taken this fight fa rther” than any other member who supports the so-called public option and other measures that aren’t in the legislation, Kucinich just declared at a Capitol Hill news conference.

“This is not the bill I wanted to support,” Kucinich continued. “However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, just dropped his opposition to the health care overhaul legislation being championed by his party and President Barack Obama.

“I have taken this fight fa rther” than any other member who supports the so-called public option and other measures that aren’t in the legislation, Kucinich just declared at a Capitol Hill news conference.

“This is not the bill I wanted to support,” Kucinich continued. “However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

more here:  Kucinich to vote ‘yes’ on healthcare, giving a boost to Democrats

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President Obama’s Saturday YouTube Address 02/20/10

white house gov logoWhiteHouse.govPremiums, Profits, and the Need for Health Reform ~ The President points to outrageous premium hikes from health insurance companies, especially those already making massive profits, as further proof of the need for reform. Looking ahead to the coming bipartisan meeting on reform, the President urges members of Congress to come to the table in good faith to address the issue.

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Dems near accord on health care bill

Reconciliation on the Table

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House and congressional leaders are preparing a detailed health care proposal designed to win passage without Republican support if GOP lawmakers fail to embrace bipartisan compromises at President Barack Obama’s summit next week. A senior White House official said Thursday that Democratic negotiators are resolving final differences in House and Senate health bills that passed last year with virtually no Republican help. The White House plans to post the proposals online by Monday morning, three days ahead of the Feb. 25 summit, which GOP leaders are approaching warily.

The comments signal that Obama and Congress’ Democratic leaders still plan to use assertive and sometimes controversial parliamentary powers to enact a far-reaching health care bill if no GOP lawmakers get on board.

source:

Senate support growing for public option via reconciliation
It began two days ago as a four-senator campaign urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., to tap the budget reconciliation process to create a public health insurance plan that would compete against private companies. Now 16 upper-chamber Democrats have signed their names in support of that strategy, according to boldprogressives.org, a liberal group that launched the campaign.

source:

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President Obama’s Saturday YouTube Address 02/13/10

white house gov logoWhiteHouse.gov—The President, having just signed the “Pay As You Go” law, discusses the importance of this fundamental rule to getting budget deficits in check. Ensuring that new spending and tax cuts are offset was a important factor in creating the budget surplus of the late 1990’s.
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