All Articles Tagged "Congress"
As of midnight last night, the U.S. government shut down for the first time in 17 years. Republicans, conservative ones in particular, are still doing their level best to overturn Obamacare (which has been the law for years, went to the Supreme Court and was deemed legal, and begins rolling out today). So the Republican-led House keeps sending proposals to the Democratic-led Senate with items that would defund or delay Obamacare and the Senate keeps putting the kibosh on it. Now there’s no money to run the government. Imagine if you ran your personal finances with a roommate or partner this way. You’re just not going to pay for anything until you can decide who does which chores around the house. You’d have no utilities, no cable, and pretty soon, you’d be packing your bags.
The first people to feel the effects are government workers, who showed up today to clear off their desks and make preparations for some unexpected time off. About 800,000 workers will be furloughed. Others, like Border Patrol officers and prison guards are going to work, but they might not be paid. FWIW, the Pay Our Military Act was signed yesterday to make sure that the troops are paid. Speaker of the House John Boehner tweeted a picture of himself signing the law, which drew some — ahem — interesting responses. President Obama also released a video just after midnight last night as Commander in Chief with details for the nation’s military. Troops will remain on duty.
Others on a forced vacation include workers at museums and national monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the Smithsonian. Those landmarks will be closed due to the shutdown. The Environmental Protection Agency is closing down. Many civil cases at the Justice Department will come to a halt. Congressional hearings, including one on the Washington Navy Yard shooting that took place last month, will not happen. The Washington Post has a detailed graphic about how various government agencies and workers will be impacted. In other words, workers will not be going to work and people won’t be getting paid. Others who receive benefits from the government will see delays. Moreover, businesses that depend on spending from those checks and sales around the landmarks that are shut will also be feeling the pressure. That means belt-tightening at a time when the economy needs consumers to be spending and when Americans need money to pay for higher costs and any residual effects of The Great Recession. President Obama talked about the broader impact in comments he made yesterday afternoon as well.
One group that doesn’t seem too phased are investors. Wall Street actually opened with stocks inching slightly higher and other markets remaining largely mute in their response. Their bigger fears are just around the bend — the upcoming fight over raising the debt ceiling, which has to happen by October 17.
Also unfazed — Congress, who will continue to get paid because their salaries are protected by the Constitution.
President Obama noted in a statement delivered from the White House yesterday evening, “Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you ‘give’ to the other side. It’s our basic responsibility.” Republicans who remember the shutdown that happened 17 years ago are saying this will go on for at least a week. All of this happened despite the fact that many voters polled didn’t want the Obamacare fight to lead to a government shutdown.
According to Politico, many Republicans are hoping to keep the shutdown short, get a concession or two from Obama and the Dems, and then reap the rewards from constituents who think this fight over Obamacare is a good thing. But, there’s a good chance that won’t happen.
[via Washington Post]
He Wanted To Get His Point Across: Sen. Ted Cruz Talked For More Than 21 Hours, Voted With The Majority
In case you hadn’t heard (the folks in the Senate certainly got an earful), Sen. Ted Cruz, conservative GOP favorite and a seeming candidate for the next Presidential election, talked for more than 21 hours to get his point across — he doesn’t like Obamacare.
Sen. Cruz took to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday afternoon at 2:42 and didn’t stop until noon today. His goal, he said, what to “speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.” During that time, he read Green Eggs & Ham to his daughters, impersonated Darth Vader, gave his own suggestions for a new healthcare plan (he’d like to see “portable” plans that will follow a person even if they change jobs) and gave a history lesson, talking about the Founding Fathers. He also used the time to air dirty laundry and criticize those that publicly disagreed with his plan for a marathon speech. In fact, there are some within Cruz’s own party, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who believe that, while the new healthcare law should be defunded, this is a misguided tactic to achieve that.
As he spoke, there were many who agreed with Cruz’s tactics, tweeting that it was a stand that needed to be taken. William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, called it a stunt, but an “effective one.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it a “big waste of time.”
Ultimately, the whole thing was largely for show. The Senate voted 100-to-0 to consider a bill that will both fund the government and defund Obamacare. According to the New York Daily News, “Democrats will eliminate the defunding proposal and force the GOP-led House to decide if it will shut the government.” That shutdown would happen next Tuesday. The new healthcare law will also be rolling out on October 1. The bill must be agreed upon and signed by President Obama by Tuesday to avoid the shutdown. A government shutdown in 1995 cost the GOP greatly, so certainly it’s something they’re going to want to avoid.
The “filibuster” (quotes because there’s some question about whether this is what Cruz’s stunt actually was) was the fourth longest in the history of Congress. The longest was by Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.) in 1957, which clocked in at 24 hours and 18 minutes. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for Congress to get down to the business of deciding on this budget and doing some real work.
It should be noted that a CNBC All-America Economic survey of 800 people conducted last week found that 44 percent of people oppose a defunding of the Affordable Care Act. Thirty-eight percent support it. “Only 19 percent of respondents said they would back a shutdown if it means defunding Obamacare,” the National Journal says.
The Senate has passed a bill that will roll back student interest rates to 3.9 percent. The rates had doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1 after Congress was unable to reach an agreement. The new figures will affect subsidized Stafford loans with undergrads getting the 3.9 percent rate, graduate students getting a 5.4 percent rate, and parents receiving a 6.4 percent rate.
Before we get too happy, we have to remember that everything Congress does these days comes with some bit of news that’ll make us suck our teeth. In this case, liberals didn’t like the fact that the rates are tied to the U.S. Treasury 10-year borrowing rate rather than being a fixed percentage set by Congress. So there’s a much higher cap on these interest rates, according to USA Today: “8.25% for undergraduates, 9.5% for graduates, and 10.5% for parents.” The bill passed 81-18 and is expected to make it through the House of Representatives.
“An effort by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to put tighter interest rates caps on student loans was… rejected.,” the paper adds.
A statement from the White House expressed their support along with that of the President. House Speaker and spray tan lover John Boehner took a moment on his blog to talk about the similarities between what passed and what the GOP supported. A bipartisan agreement takes from the ideas of both sides of the discussion, so he shouldn’t be quite so far up on that high horse, but OK fine. As long as new borrowers get some relief.
HBCUs still have a fight on their hands as changes to student loan standards have greatly impacted their schools and their students. Changes in eligibility that affect students who need more financial help have the schools seeking legal recourse to turn things around.
A study published last month shows that among adults, “19.6 percent have student loans and 57 percent are concerned about repayment.” Moreover, many people with student loan debt don’t even have a degree, indicating that they’re not finishing their degree studies.
“Hispanics and African Americans are about twice as likely to carry student-loan debt: 34 percent of blacks and 28 percent of Hispanics have it, compared with 16 percent of whites and 19 percent Asians,” adds CBS MoneyWatch.
Since the onset of the recession, the national student loan debt among current and former college students has climbed to over $1 trillion dollars, surpassing credit and auto loan debts in 2012, says The Washington Post. With this grim statistic, the debt crisis from student loans is continuously making headlines, leaving many college students across all generations worried about their financial well-being and baffled at Congress’ inaction. On July 1, student loan interest rates doubled. When given the opportunity to put the lower 3.4 percent interest rate back in place on Wednesday, the measure failed because of a “procedural hurdle.” At this point, we can only hope that Congress will take another look at a short-term reduction and long-term strategy before the break in August.
The rising debt toll has prompted an outcry among former college students, current students, politicians and some celebrities, concerned with the impact of this growing financial and economic issue will have on the nation as a whole.
US Weekly magazine reported on stars like actress Scarlett Johansson and fellow actress Kerry Washington, who spoke out on the student loan debt crisis and more at last year’s Democratic National Convention in September. At 28 years old, actress Scarlett Johansson expressed her concern for the welfare of her generation, who are now facing issues like affordable health care and the debt that has crippled many young Americans looking to build a stable future with their college education.
“I’m here not just as an actress but as a woman, an African-American, a granddaughter of Ellis Island immigrants, a person who could not have afforded college without the help of student loans,” Washington proclaimed last year during the DNC.
Other celebrities who have shed light on the issue via their outlets on social media and on television include Think Like A Man actor Romany Malco, comedienne and actress Roseanne Barr, famous financial guru Suze Orman, MMA fighter Gerald Harris, TV One news analyst Roland Martin and others.
Although celebrities are advocating for the temporary fixes to remain permanent, Congress is still pegging students in the middle of this crucial debate, even as the average college loan debt rises to about $30,000, as reported by Generation Opportunity.
With even celebrities flexing their star power and standing up for the crisis that faces nearly 40 million Americans, this current economic dilemma needs to be a major priority to Congress and other leaders at the forefront of this issue. As former and current college students in America, we need to demand more productivity from Congress to ensure that this looming debt bubble is being noticed politically and economically, as it spans across generations. Without a proper and concrete plan of action nationally, the traditional “American dream” will soon become only a daydream for many. The hefty college loan debt crisis will be a rude awakening to young people heading out into the world and their adult lives.
Politicians have a reputation for being mostly deceitful with a bit of work in government policy thrown in. No surprise perhaps that parents just don’t want their children involved in such a murky field. A new survey finds that 64 percent of Americans would cringe if their son or daughter attempted to become a politician, Gallup reports.
Only one-third of Americans would approve of their children pursuing a career in politics, the poll says. For the past 20 years, the fluctuation in the percentages has been minimal. In 1993, 61 percent disfavored a political career for their kids while only 32 percent approved.
The survey tried to get a sense of whether parents preferred a particular sex to become politicians, but the percentage remained the same between both girls and boys; only 31 percent approved politics for both their sons and daughters. Even 20 years ago, there was no significant difference between the percentage of males or females whose parents approved of a political career.
When it comes to race, however, the Gallup poll found there was a substantial difference. The survey says that 42 percent and 45 percent of non-White respondents wanted to see their son and daughter in politics, respectively. In opposition, only 26 percent and 25 percent of Whites approved a political career for their son or daughter. The explanation behind this difference may be due to the prominent number of non-Whites affiliated with the Democratic Party. As Gallup has previously reported, there is “slight tendency for Democrats to favor a political career…than Republicans,” says Gallup.
The overall low desirability for a political occupation stems from a lack of “trust in government” and lowered “confidence in political institutions, particularly Congress, ” Gallup explains. As MN recently reported, a recent poll suggests that America only has a 10 percent approval rating of the House and Senate. Gallup has frequently found that Americans would rather their children pursue a career in medicine and technology.
This study was based on 2,048 telephone interviews with adults over the age of 18 living in all 50 states.
A new poll shows that Americans have grown sick and tired of Congress’ antics. As MN reported on Monday, student loan interest rates have nearly doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent after Congress failed to reach a decision to keep the current rates. In pulling such an irresponsible move, it’s no wonder that Congress’ popularity as reached a historic low of 10 percent, reports MSNBC.
A recent poll was conducted by Gallup to discover, out of 16 institutions, which one Americans approved the most. Congress fell flat with only a 10 percent approval rating; this is down three percentage points from last year. The military, small businesses and the police garnered the highest ratings of confidence from the public.
With unpopular decisions on gun control, background checks, and raising the minimum wage, Congress is completely out of sync with American opinion. Fifty-seven percent of Americans want a ban on assault weapons, but Congress is not on the same page. A whopping 91 percent of Americans favored a universal background check, but the House and Senate could not come to an agreement. About 71 percent of the public wants the minimum wage raised to $9 an hour, but Congress and the American public could not see eye-to-eye.
Previously, when either Republicans or Democrats had a greater grip in the legislative branch, members of that party would “express greater confidence” in Congress, says US News. For instance, in the early 2000s, Republicans controlled the House and the Senate, so, of course, Republican voters approved of Congress more than Democrats In 2007, Democrats favored Congress when they regained control. Now, the survey shows a rare time in which all parties, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, are united in their disapproval in Congress’ performance this year.
The Washington Post adds that “just 12 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of political independents hold confidence in Congress—a near tie.”
Since 1973, Gallup has been recording Congressional approval ratings. It was only in 1986 that Congress reached its highest approval rating at 41 percent when Ronald Reagan was president, the Post adds.
In a comical national poll released earlier this year, Americans preferred lice (67 percent) over Congress (19 percent) and root canals (56 percent) over than Washington (32 percent).
The interest rates for federally subsidized Stafford student loans increases today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent after Congress failed to reach a deal to maintain current rates. Democrats have said that they want to keep the interest rate low to help low- and middle-income students. Republicans have pushed to make the interest rates meet the 10-year Treasury notes. According to Fox News, Democrats have said that the Senate will consider voting on a yearlong extension on July 10, following the July 4 holiday. House Republicans say they would prefer a long-term solution. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators tells CNNMoney that they’re telling students to settle into this higher rate.
The new rates only apply to new loans. But any deal could be retroactive. There’s hope that a compromise will be reached before the end of the summer when the number of loans jumps up with the beginning of the school year.
Young people, more than ever, are saddled with high amounts of student loan debt and few employment options. CNNMoney notes that it’s the second largest debt adults carry these days behind their mortgage. As of 2011, the average student loan debt was $27,000. For many people, the debt has become a hindrance, stopping consumers from purchasing houses, buying a car, or starting a family because they can’t afford it. Experts who spoke with USA Today said that the key is to graduate with a manageable amount of debt, a figure that doesn’t exceed the first year’s annual income. Others said the shifts that could occur because of the heavy debt load could have dramatic social implications.
She’s ditching her sparkly evening gown and dazzling crown to wear a newly-polished suit: Miss America 2003 Erika Harold is running for the House of Representatives on the Republican ticket. She is opposing Rep. Rodney Davis in the primary, reports the East Central Illinois News-Gazette.
The 33-year-old wants to convince skeptics that her position as Miss America has prepared her for the grueling and arduous work of campaigning and representing the 13th Congressional District. She says she’s used to the national spotlight and even butted heads with the national organization behind the Miss America competition. If it were not for the flack she received, Harold believes she would not have had the tough skin to overcome the tribulations that may come her way.
“I think those experiences did prepare and equip me to handle this stage,” she said.
Despite knowing the cruel character of politics, Harold insists that her campaign for Congress against Davis will be fair. She simply wants to put her best foot forward in convincing voters she would be the best representative for Illinois. It is not her intention “to try and destroy [Davis] personally.”
Despite her stated Miss America qualifications, many are wondering what makes her qualified to take on such a taxing political arena. Harold graduated from Harvard Law and has used Miss America as a platform to pursue a desire to dabble in politics. According to her campaign website, she wants to show that her ability to perform lies not in her history in politics, but her helping hand for the community.
She has defended religious liberty as a lawyer, fought against youth violence and bullying, and she is seeking to further continue her services for Illinois, a report from Politico says. Harold has also advocated for lower taxes and limited government intervention, a report from Jezebel states.
She might very well have a shot at winning. She and faced Davis in the last election and the result was the closest race of any Republican representative voted into Congress, according to Politico. Harold is taking advantage of this narrow margin and might take the crown of Illinois’ next Republican congresswoman.
It’s official. Former Illinois State Rep. Robin Kelly was sworn in earlier this week as the newest member of the House, taking over the seat held for 17 years by disgraced Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.
Kelly easily won in a special-election held last Tuesday, defeating her Republican opponent in the heavily Democratic 2nd District, which includes part of Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs, reports The Huffington Post.
In remarks made after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) administered the oath of office, Kelly reemphasized her commitment to fighting gun violence, passing immigration reform, creating jobs and improving the health care system. With the addition of Kelly, the makeup in the House became 232 Republicans, 201 Democrats, and two vacancies.
Kelly’s campaign was not without controversy. Her campaign received $2 million in backing from the political action committee of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a leading gun-control supporter, writes HuffPo. Some accused Bloomberg of unfairly trying to influence the Chicago race.
“I look forward to working with you to protect our children from criminals and protect our Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens, because we should and can do both,” she said on the House floor after taking the oath of office.
Kelly also requested that Vice President Joe Biden travel to Capitol Hill to preside over a second swearing-in ceremony.
Jackson, who is the son of human rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, resigned in November after citing health concerns. He also pleaded guilty in February to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses.
The big political news today is President Obama’s latest budget proposal, a $3.77 billion plan that would be put into effect for fiscal year 2014, which starts October 1. Given the continuous battle back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, The Wall Street Journal sums up the goal of the proposal as such: “Obama Reaches For Middle Ground With New Budget Plan.”
“The White House will seek to persuade Republicans to warm to its proposal to embrace more short-term spending, which administration officials say will boost jobs, while also locking in medium-term tax and spending changes to reduce the deficit,” the article says. “So far, the White House has found such an approach a tough sell, with Republicans opposing tax increases and saying much of the spending is wasteful.” Overall, the article says, the spending budget is up six percent to counteract the sequestration spending cuts (remember those?) that went into effect March 1.
At the start of the fiscal year, The New York Times explains, “the federal deficit would be $744 billion, according to administration officials. That would be equal to about 4.4 percent of the gross domestic product, down from a high of about 10 percent at the height of the recession. By decade’s end, the annual deficit would be 1.7 percent, officials said, though deficits would increase thereafter as aging baby boomers drive up costs for federal benefit programs.” The 10-year plan would cut spending by $1.2 billion and would raise $580 million by pulling more taxes from the wealthy, including the imposition of the Buffet Rule, which would take 30 percent from anyone making a taxable income over $1 million.
The spending and taxes included in the proposal aren’t to the Republicans’ liking, who still want to see the federal budget decrease. What has riled Democrats are the proposed cuts to future Social Security benefits.
But there will be additional spending. Infrastructure is a priority in the budget, as is expanding prekindergarten education. And in response to calls from people across the political spectrum following the massacre in Newtown, CT, $235 million has been allotted for mental health programs. The money would pay to train teachers and other professionals to better detect the warning signs of mental illness in students, to provide in-school professional mental health services, and to help schools that have a high level of violence, according to The Washington Post. The paper says that mental health advocates are pleased with the attention, but note the billions of dollars in cuts that have been made across states over the past few years.
President Obama will be having dinner with prominent Congressional Republicans this evening in the hopes of talking through a compromise. Meanwhile, Congress could vote this week on gun control measures. The two sides seem to be ready to compromise on issues like universal background checks, says CNN.