Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Mashup (2/25/11)

  • I give you last week’s Area Votes In Congress from the Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…


    Republican spending cuts. Voting 235-189, the House passed a Republican bill (HR 1) to reduce non-security discretionary spending by $60 billion below current levels in the remaining seven months of fiscal 2011. This amounts to a cut of 13 percent when averaged over the full year and 22 percent between March 4 and Sept. 30.

    The bill awaits Senate action on a competing Democratic measure. The government is likely to be shut down March 4 if the parties fail to settle their differences by then.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Oh, and while the Repugs are congratulating themselves about trying to strangle the metaphorical baby of our non-job creating economic recovery in its crib, they might want to read this.

    Planned Parenthood. Voting 240-185, the House acted to end federal funding this fiscal year for Planned Parenthood of America, a private organization that provides reproductive health services at 800 clinics nationwide. Planned Parenthood provides abortions, but in keeping with a prohibition in federal law known as the Hyde Amendment, it cannot use federal funds for that purpose. This vote during debate on HR 1 (above) would deny the organization $75 million or more in federal funding.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    So Mikey and his pals would send the ladies to God-knows-where for health care if their dreaded “lady parts” need some kind of icky medical treatment (with the Inquirer writeup already pointing out that no federal dough would be used for abortions due to that amendment named after a former House rep and serial philanderer).

    But the Middle Ages brought us so much, like typhus, cholera and religious persecution. Onward Christian Soldiers!

    (And by the way, kudos to Charlie Dent for bucking his party on this and acting like an adult.)

    USA Patriot Act. Voting 279-143, the House sent President Obama a bill (HR 514) to extend for 90 days the only sections of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act that are not yet permanent law. The three sections authorize roving wiretaps on terrorist suspects, allow surveillance of suspects not linked to terrorist organizations, and permit secretive searches of business, library, bookstore, tax, medical, and other records during terrorism investigations. Congress will use the 90 days to conduct hearings on right-of-privacy concerns raised by these sections.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Brady, Fattah, and Fitzpatrick.
    Again, kudos actually to Mikey The Beloved for opposing this, as much as I hate to say that (and an utter pox on Andrews, Carney, Holden and Schwartz…disgusting).

    F-35 fighter budget. The House voted, 233-198, to strip the fiscal 2011 military budget of its $485 million for continued development of a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The cut was included in a GOP bill (HR 1) to sharply reduce spending in the remaining months of the budget year. The Pentagon hopes to purchase more than 2,400 of the radar-evading F-35 fighters over three decades.

    A yes vote was to cut military spending.

    Voting yes: Brady, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Holden, Meehan, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Andrews, Carney, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    As an astute commenter noted here, this ends up costing jobs in both Boehner and Cantor’s districts, cutting off funding for a proverbial white elephant that our services didn’t want (and I know Mikey voted to cut it to placate the teabaggers, but this was the right thing to do – “swing and a miss” by Andrews and Carney).

    Community police grants. The House voted, 228-203, to spend $228 million in fiscal 2011 for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program and reduce NASA's space-exploration budget by the same amount. This would continue a Democratic program targeted for elimination by the Republicans' budget-cutting plan (HR 1, above). The COPS program provides local police departments with grants for putting officers on the beat and buying crime-fighting technology.

    A yes vote was to continue the COPS program.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Pitts.
    So Pancake Joe has no problem voting for a “money pit” of a jet fighter that nobody wants, but he does have a problem voting to support local crime fighters (how the voters in his district who keep sending him back to Washington can look at themselves in the mirror is something I’ll never know).

    Internet neutrality. Voting 244-181, the House stripped the Federal Communications Commission of funding to advance its recent rule aimed at keeping the Internet equally available to all users. The FCC said the rule is intended to preserve "Net neutrality," in part by preventing different levels of broadband service. Critics said the agency lacks authority to regulate the Internet.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, and Schwartz.
    As much as it pains me to admit it, this fight is slowly being lost because the telecoms have more money to fight it in court, and the Obama FCC appointees are wavering. This vote is just another Repug attack that voters should have anticipated last November, if more of them had the remotest clue of the importance of this issue.

    Ever wonder why the cable and internet service in this country offers lousy selection and costs too much (as well as the fact that broadband is a rumor for waay too many rural places in this country, which hurts our economic competitiveness)? This is a big part of the answer (a recent news story is here).

    Greenhouse gases. The House voted, 239-185, to sharply reduce funding for the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program under which power plants, refineries, and other major polluters must disclose emissions data to the Environmental Protection Agency. The amendment to HR 1 (above) shifted $8.5 million of the program's $16 million budget to deficit reduction.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Gerlach, Dent, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fitzpatrick, and Schwartz.

    Not voting: Carney and Fattah.
    Maybe some of those who voted for this amendment will finally get it when there’s three feet of water everywhere in the Capitol and most of their legislative districts have turned into deserts. Maybe.

    And once again, Mikey does the right thing…fair is fair (how does that saying go…in a kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man rules over all, or something?).


    Federal aviation budget. Voting 87-8, the Senate passed a $35 billion two-year authorization of federal aviation programs. The bill (S 223) uses a combination of general appropriations and user fees such as fuel and passenger-ticket taxes to fund the U.S. aviation system.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).

    Not voting: Chris Coons (D., Del.).
    I don’t agree with the teabagger aversion to spending a single solitary dime on “gumint,” but at least I understand it. However, it takes a particular kind of crazy to oppose funding the FAA (wonder if Wingnut Pat had a fever dream about The Sainted Ronnie R and the air traffic controllers?).

    Aviation budget cut. Voting 51-47, the Senate tabled (killed) an amendment to S 223 (above) to cut the Federal Aviation Administration budget by more than $2 billion annually, to the fiscal 2008 level of $14.7 billion.

    A yes vote was to kill the amendment.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.

    Voting no: Toomey.
    Yeah, you show ‘em, Pat – why does the FAA need more dough to spend on dumb stuff like equipment maintenance and upgrades so there are as few surprises as possible at 30,000 feet?

    Air-service subsidies. The Senate voted, 61-38, to preserve the Essential Air Service program, which uses $200 million annually in taxpayer subsidies to provide commercial service to 1.1 million travelers in more than 150 small cities and rural outposts.

    A yes vote backed the Essential Air Service program.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, and Coons.

    Voting no: Menendez, Lautenberg, and Toomey.

    USA Patriot Act. Voting 86-12, the Senate passed a bill (HR 514) to extend for 90 days the three sections of the USA Patriot Act that have not yet been added permanently to the U.S. Code. Congress will determine whether to make the sections permanent or continue to subject them to periodic congressional review. The House later sent the bill to President Obama.

    A yes vote was to temporarily extend the three sections.

    Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Coons, Menendez, and Toomey.

    Voting no: Lautenberg.
    A good vote here by Lautenberg, as opposed to the rest.

    Airport screeners' rights. Voting 47-51, the Senate refused to block an administration plan to provide Transportation Security Administration personnel with limited collective-bargaining rights. Under the plan, TSA employees such as passenger screeners would be empowered to bargain over working conditions but could not strike or bargain over pay. A yes vote opposed collective-bargaining rights for TSA employees.

    Voting yes: Toomey.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.
    Ahhh, it looks like “No Corporate Tax” Pat is doing his best imitation here of Hosni Mubarak Walker. Which should come as no surprise whatsoever.

    This week, Congress was in recess until the week of Feb. 28 (hey, by their standards, this was a ton of work – they need time to “hit the links” or meet with their Chamber of Commerce pals to catch their breath, or something).

  • Next, it looks like somebody had better call the WHAAAAM-BULAAAAANCE for former Dem and now Repug Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama (here)…

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) ratcheted up the rhetoric surrounding Thursday's announcement that Boeing won a $35 billion Air Force tanker contest, saying "Chicago politics" was the difference.

    Many defense insiders and congressional aides were betting Boeing's top rival, EADS, would capture the 179-plane tender. But Air Force and Pentagon brass announced Thursday that Boeing "was a clear winner."

    “I’m disappointed but not surprised," Shelby said late Thursday, according to reports. "Only Chicago politics could tip the scales in favor of Boeing’s inferior plane. EADS clearly offers the more capable aircraft. If this decision stands, our warfighters will not get the superior equipment they deserve."
    I will grant a small point in Shelby’s favor and say that Boeing didn’t do as good of a job as it could have on the original bid (which I noted here, along with a threat from “Country First” McCain to launch an investigation if Boeing ended up with the deal, influenced in no small part by a McCain campaign contribution from EADS, the company competing with Boeing). However, though I am not an aerospace expert by any means, based on what I’ve read on this, Boeing has built better planes of this type and likely will do so again. And had EADS gotten the contract, some of the work would have been done overseas; this way, it will all stay stateside.

    However, it is nothing short of hilarious for Shelby to complain about politics allegedly being used to influence a contract award of this type, seeing as how he blocked Senate action on at least 70 of President Obama's nominations because Shelby wanted money for two projects in his home state, as noted here (and here is an example of Shelby talking tough against the automakers while sucking up to the “banksters” – more Repug fiscal nuttiness particularly in light of this).

  • Finally, Repug House wingnut Paul Broun is quite rightly taking a lot of flak here for, at best, blowing off one of his demented constituents who asked “Who is going to shoot Obama?” as opposed to giving this person verbally what he (I believe) deserved.

    Like you I’m sure, I hope the Secret Service finds out who this despicable fool is and absolutely scares the fertilizer out of him. However, Broun has been trafficking in threatening anti-government rhetoric for years, so this really isn’t surprising.

    Here, he said that health care reform and the stimulus will “kill people by denying care”; here, he said that Obama and the “Socialist elite” were planning to “declare martial law”; and here, in his book “The Backlash,” Will Bunch documented Broun’s ties to the “Oath Keepers,” a “fast-growing, ultraradical organization that spreads unsubstantiated fears of Obama confiscating guns and placing U.S. citizens in concentration camps.”

    Hopefully, the incarceration of one of these America-hating (for real) cowards will go a long way towards clamping down on the garbage that seeps out of the darkest reaches of our discourse, pretending to pass for informed commentary. And that is a day that is long overdue.

    And by the way, when I’m talking about incarceration, I’m referring to Broun, not his constituent.
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