All Articles Tagged "Congress"
Past deadline and kind of grudgingly, the House of Representatives passed legislation last night that will avoid big tax increases on the middle class, stopping our fall down the fiscal cliff. You’ll remember that technically, this was supposed to happen before January 1. But better late than never right? (Wrong, but OK.)
The margin for passage was 257 to 167; 85 Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and former Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan voted in favor, The New York Times reports. However, Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) and the number three Representative from California, Kevin McCarthy, did not. The Senate approved the legislation the day before by a margin of 89 to 8, and there was some fear that the House was going to let it die amid amendments and debate. A rejection of the legislation would’ve meant not only a rejection of something that the Democrats and President Obama largely supported, but also a rejection of House Speaker Boehner and the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who played a big role in crafting the legislation. (The Speaker already had one of his proposals voted down by his fellow Republicans.) Many policy experts and pundits on Twitter argued that if the deal hadn’t passed, the Republicans would take the blame. Even with the legislation’s passage, there are many who say this process will reflect poorly on the Republicans in the long run.
For the first time in 20 years, income taxes on the wealthiest will rise. Those individuals with an income over $400,000 and families with an income over $450,000 will pay more taxes. The tax cuts for those below that level are permanent. Payroll taxes, however, will increase. Politico has a breakdown of how that will impact your paycheck, via the AP and the Tax Policy Center. A sample:
Annual income: $40,000 to $50,000 — Average tax increase: $579 … Annual income: $50,000 to $75,000 — Average tax increase: $822 … Annual income: $75,000 to $100,000 — Average tax increase: $1,206 …
Unemployment benefits will also continue for two million people who were at risk of losing them. And spending cuts that were supposed to start today have been put off until March. “Conservatives complained bitterly that the legislation would raise taxes without making any significant cuts in government spending,” The Washington Post says. We’ve also avoided the dairy cliff, so go ahead and keep on drinking milk America!
During a press conference last night with Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama said the legislation will result in $620 billion in revenue for the country. But in just two short months, the fight will be on again as Congress discusses raising the debt ceiling (a debate that had everyone on edge in 2011) and sequestration, aka spending cuts.
There are also concerns that with these fights looming, the President won’t be able to address some of the other important issues that need to be tackled, like immigration, gun violence, and other changes to the tax code.
“Others are more optimistic, though, suggesting that even contentious issues such as immigration won’t be as politically perilous as raising taxes. Rewriting immigration laws is a complex task, but many Republicans and Democrats are motivated to pass legislation in an effort to appeal to the growing number of Hispanic voters,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
The latest on the fiscal cliff talks indicate that House Republicans are joining forces around Speaker John Boehner, a rare occurrence over the past couple of years. The New York Times says this should make it easier for him to get a caucus on board to sign off on a deal. But these politicians are really on some stuff so you never know. (Case in point: Republicans voted against a UN treaty strengthening rights for the disabled even though it fell in line with laws that we’ve had in place for decades. Jon Stewart’s awesome take down here.)
But, the Times says, Republicans met yesterday, and came out of it with praise for Boehner. Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor even joined in the fun.
“Mr. Cantor signed on this week to Mr. Boehner’s package including $800 billion in new revenue, putting him squarely on the same page with the speaker,” the paper says. “Several Republicans said Wednesday that the combination of the onerous nature of the potential tax increases and spending cuts and the realities of the recent election combined to bolster Mr. Boehner’s support.” It only takes near-financial collapse to help them see the light.
Meanwhile, President Obama is keeping the pressure on, hosting a Twitter Q&A to discuss maintaining middle class tax cuts, a continuation of his My2K social media push he started last week. To reach business leaders, he appealed to them directly yesterday (even emptying a room of reporters to do so) asking them to accept higher taxes and vowing not to allow Republicans to use debt ceiling negotiations for leverage. “I will not play that game,” he said unequivocally. He has also met with business leaders at the White House and appeared on Bloomberg TV to talk about the issue, Politico reports.
The Atlantic has some great pie charts that break down the different plans for avoiding the fiscal cliff. A little dry, but it’s important to be in the know. (Separately and kind of not related, one of the people behind the Bowles-Simpson plan, 81-year-old former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, is pushing young people to get behind a deficit reduction push on social media with this video below, which has some serious LOL. h/t Mashable)
While all of this politicking is happening, Americans are genuinely worried about what’s going to happen. (Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said that the administration is ready to go over the cliff if an acceptable deal isn’t reached, but that seems premature.) A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows 53 percent of voters believe that falling off the fiscal cliff will personally impact them in a negative way. Forty-eight percent of participants optimisitically believe that an agreement will be reached by the end of the year, ABC News says.
The consequences of not reaching a deal could have grave consequences for the black community. “Spending cuts to domestic programs… would impact African-Americans in more ways than one,” BET reports. “In addition to reductions in programs that some families depend on, such as Head Start, African-Americans, who are overrepresented in public sector jobs, could find themselves on the unemployment line.”
Public sector job cuts have already been a blight on the financial well-being of African Americans, black women in particular. Black Women’s Agenda, a 35-year-old Washington-based nonprofit, has officially thrown its support behind President Obama’s proposal. “”We believe that the President’s proposal best serves the interests of not just the constituencies that we and our collaborating organizations represent, but also the majority of the American people,” said the organization’s president Gwainevere Catchings Hess in a statement.
The Congressional Black Caucus has also thrown its support behind many of the President’s proposals, including an end to tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, implementation of Affordable Care Act, and an extension of unemployment benefits.
The President called in to the Tom Joyner show yesterday to talk about the fiscal cliff, reiterating his points about the pain that allowing ourselves to go over will cause.
“[T]his is a solvable problem,” the President said. “It should not be a crisis. And the main thing that I need folks to do is just contact your members of Congress and say to people, don’t let middle-class taxes go up right now. Don’t let working people carry the burden of deficit reduction when millionaires and billionaires aren’t doing their fair share,” reads the EurWeb transcription. Get on the horn with your Congresspeople!
The past two years have been bumpy ones for the relationship between Congress and Internet regulation, with the introduction and shutting down of SOPA and PIPA, among other things. But Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) hopes to get Congress to “take a break from messing with the Internet” with a proposed new bill.
On November 26, Issa introduced a draft of the Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA), which would “create a two-year moratorium on any new laws, rules or regulations governing the Internet.” And he turned to Reddit, the user-generated news site, on Wednesday to discuss the law and get feedback from Internet users.
“I’m not advocating for no rules or laws on the Internet ever. But it has been made abundantly clear to me, and to a lot of other people, that both legislators and regulators have gone down the road of trying to take actions that impact the Internet without knowing their full effect,” Issa said on Reddit. “This is the case today both domestically and internationally.”
Naturally, not everyone agrees with Issa and there was some backlash on Reddit regarding Issa’s past behavior on Internet regulation laws. According to Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, who spoke to The Hill, “Even if they pass this bill, Congress could pass another Internet regulation bill that would supersede the previous bill.”
Do you think Issa’s bill would have any real impact in Congress? Or is it good protection to keep the status quo of internet regulation in place for a couple more years?
Jesse Jackson Jr. Resigns From Congress Amidst Health Issues And FBI Probe That Could Put Him In Jail
According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson of course, has resigned from Congress today. And while he said in a letter that his health is the main reason he will step down since he can’t really be effective as he battles bipolar depression, others think it has more to do with the fact that he is being investigated by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee for the misuse of campaign funds and Congressional allowances. Congressman get an allowance which they can use to “operate offices in Washington and in their districts” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, but we previously reported that reports were saying that Jackson was using his allowance to buy Rolex watches for women friends and to decorate his D.C. home. We also reported that there were rumors of a plea deal in the works that would include his resignation from Congress, and sadly this has occurred, and just weeks after winning re-election for the tenth time. According to CNN, authorities are also looking into allegations that in 2008, someone in Jackson’s camp offered to have Jackson’s team raise money for former Governor Rod Blagojevich, but only if Jackson would be appointed to President Obama’s empty Senate seat.
In his letter of resignation, Jackson did discuss the investigation and said that whatever is found out about him, he will take responsibility for. According to the Chicago Tribune, the letter went something like this:
“I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone. None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right.”
But as mentioned earlier, Jackson made it clear that it is because of his health, first and foremost, that he is leaving his seat. He’s not admitting any form of guilt, but just owning up to any mistakes:
“My health issues and treatment regimen have become incompatible with service in the House of Representatives. Therefore, it is with great regret that I hereby resign as a member of the United States House of Representatives, effective today, in order to focus on restoring my health…Once the doctors approve my return to work, I will continue to be the progressive fighter you have known for years. My family and I are grateful for your many heartfelt prayers and kind thoughts. I continue to feel better every day and look forward to serving you.”
The 47-year-old has been struggling with an array of health issues (on top of being diagnosed as bipolar, his office said he has also been treated for gastrointestinal issues) for most of the year, and he hadn’t been seen in the House of Representatives since early June. Jackson has had scandal follow him for the past few years his name being tied into the Rod Blagojevich scandal, his most recent investigation into the way he’s spending money monitored by Congress, and past drama with him asking folks to pay for random women to fly to come see him. Whatever is going on, it really is time for Jackson to step down, take care of his health and his probes, the latter which is tarnishing his reputation, and just go get his life back on track.
Are you surprised that he resigned, or did you see it coming?
Merry Christmas? Unemployment Benefits Could Cease For 2 Million on December 1, Blacks Would Be Hard Hit
According to new reports, two million people could lose unemployment benefits right before Christmas unless Congress extends the benefits program. And African Americans, who have among the still have the highest unemployment rates, will most likely be the hardest hit. Even though unemployment figures for African Americans have improved, 13.4 percent of black workers, or 2.44 million people, remain out of work, according to the Huffington Post. And in New York, black women are the hardest hit.
According to the nonprofit Community Service Society of New York, older women and black workers remained unemployed longest. “Nearly 63 percent of women 55 to 65 were out of work for more than six months last year… Black New Yorkers remained unemployed for an average 47 weeks, more than any other ethnic group,” reports the Uptowner. A Department of Labor report found blacks are less likely to find jobs and tend to stay unemployed for longer periods of time.
If Congress doesn’t act by December 1, Americans who have been out of work longer than six months will no longer receive benefits. Six months is the limit for most state-funded unemployment insurance. In April, another one million people might have their checks curtailed if the program is not renewed.
“We cannot forget the human cliff looming for more than two million Americans scheduled to lose their economic lifeline during the upcoming holidays,” Rep. Sander M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
Congress could have some hurdles in extending the benefits as conservative lawmakers “have raised concerns that continually extending jobless benefits is both an unmanageable burden on the federal budget and a disincentive for people to find work,” reports The Washington Post.
But a coalition of more than 35 groups led by the National Employment Law Project is launching an aggressive campaign to pressure Congress to extend the program.
By now the obsession with all things ratchet has overtaken the minds, hearts and spirits of Black America. From Issa Rae’s “RatchetPiece Theatre” to our unswerving love for (and fascination by) something called a ‘Joseline Hernandez,’ there really ain’t no way around it. Ratchet is in. And ratchet activities don’t only take place in the obvious places you might immediately think of. Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, ratchet usually happens in the places you don’t even expect.
Hours before Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage last night at the Republican Convention, Mayor Mia Love gave a speech that had people cheering, hooting and chanting “U-S-A.”
Love is the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, a Mormon and possibly, if the buzz becomes reality, the future first black Republican woman to get elected to Congress.
During her brief speech last night, she talked about her immigrant roots; her parents came to the U.S. from Haiti “with $10 in their pocket.” She used her time at the podium to sound off on President Obama, saying point blank that “his policies have failed.”
“President Obama’s version of American is a divided one,” she said, “often pitting us against each other based on income level, gender, and social status.”
“With Mitt Romney as President and Paul Ryan as Vice President, we can restore and revive that American story we know and love,” she continued.
You can listen to the entirety of her speech on ABC News.
Love is already the first black woman to become mayor in Utah, winning the seat two years ago. She could oust the state’s Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson. She’s already gotten support from GOP bigwigs House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain (AZ), who traveled to the state to help her raise funds. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be there on September 7.
Critics and the opposition have brought up the fact that Mayor Love has raised taxes in her city, contrary to her platform focused on fiscal responsibility and spending cuts. She says it was just for public safety. And the Christian Science Monitor reports, “A local Utah non-profit, the Alliance for a Better UTAH, issued a statement Tuesday claiming Love’s plan would eliminate all government support for student loans. The statement said Love put herself through college in Connecticut using federal student aid programs.”
After she spoke last night, people ran to Google to find out more about her. She’s definitely got our attention.
Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – the document that expresses the want, will, and hopes of the people – the country’s political system has reflected a disproportionately low number of women. Black females are even scarcer. However, some black women have been trailblazers in the political arena, shaping history and leaving a legacy that cannot be erased.
Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris broke several racial and gender barriers throughout her distinguished political career. In 1965, she became the first black female ambassador when President Lyndon Johnson appointed her as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Two years later, she returned to her alma mater, Howard University, where she became the law school dean, making her the first black female law school dean in the country. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Harris to serve in his cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development. She was the first black female in a presidential cabinet.
In a courageous move, Democratic representative, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, stood before Congress yesterday and revealed her own history with sexual abuse and rape. She did so to show support for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
The act, which originally passed in 1994, has been a point of contention for some Republicans since 2005, presumably because new provisions seek to protect gays, lesbians and illegal immigrant women. Last month, when the Senate voted on the bill, eight republicans, all men, voted against it. Though, the bill has been supported by every Republican woman in the Senate.
Moore, astounded by the stalling of this bill, decided to address Congress and share her own personal story.
You can watch the video of her very passionate, very candid statements below.
Tragically, the story Moore shared with Congress yesterday does not represent half of the abuse she’s endured throughout her life.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Moore said,
“I have been a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault for as long as I can remember. I think that men, boys, see it as a right of passage to have sex with girls. Lovers feel it is their right to dominate women in that way. That has been my experience.”
As a child, Moore was sexually assaulted by a distant family member. In high school, she was raped by a classmate, as she mentioned in the video. Amazingly she overcame all of that trauma and went on graduate from Marquette University. But in the ’70s Moore was raped again by a stranger. Moore pressed charges; but to add insult to injury, her rapist challenged her in court. He claimed that she wasn’t wearing any underwear at the time of the rape and that she had a child out of wedlock. As ridiculous and absurd as his testimony was, he was acquitted of all charges and Moore lost her job as a result.
Listening to Moore’s story will make you question God. The fact that one woman has had to endure more abuse in one lifetime than many of us will ever know is unfathomable. But the even greater injustice would be for the story of Moore’s abuse, and the abuse of the women she represents, to continue in Congress.
Another Republican representative, Cathy McMorris Rogers, a woman, told The Daily Beast that Moore and fellow Democrats are pushing the bill now as a political stunt. She claimed that that Democrats have created a “war on women” to distract from the real issues at hand.
It really is disgusting. Violence against women is a real issue, at hand right now. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey stating that there are an average of 207,754 rapes, (about one every two minutes), every year, it is a very real issue, right now. Not to mention, those are just the number of rapes which have been reported. With those type of numbers, there’s no doubt we all have either been assaulted ourselves, or know someone who has been raped.
If there’s any bright side to this picture, it’s that rapes in the U.S. have decreased by 60 percent since 1993. This may be a coincidence, but that is exactly one year before the Violence Against Women Act was passed. Whether it’s a leap or not, reducing funding for this act is not a theory we or Congress should be so willing to test.
What do you think of Moore’s story, do you have one like it? Do you think Moore’s remarks will help make the Violence Against Women Act a priority for Republican members of Congress?
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By now you’ve probably noticed that there’s no Wikipedia today, and that Google has blacked out its logo, or that some of your favorite blog sites have faded to black. The effort is part of a protest of two bills before Congress, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, which would censor the Web and impose some stiff regulations on online businesses.
The purpose of the bill, which is backed by many in the music and film industries, is to stop online piracy which has been running rampant for several years now and some say is costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions, possibly even billions, of dollars in lost revenue. But opponents of the legislation who have turned their sites dark in a move of solidarity say the legislation infringes on freedom of speech and could even “break the Internet.”
According to the Washington Post, the bill would “enable copyright holders and the Justice Department to get court orders against sites that ‘engage in, enable, or facilitate’ copyright infringement. That could include, say, sites that host illegal mp3s or sites that link to such sites. Courts could bar advertisers and payment companies such as PayPal from doing business with the offending sites in question, order search engines to stop listing the accused infringers, or even require Internet service providers to block access entirely. The bills contain other provisions, too, like making it a felony to stream unauthorized content online.”
Although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in 1998, requiring any site hosting or linking to pirated material to take it down once notified, sites aren’t required to actively police their sites, which copyright holders say isn’t enough. So, with this new law, “Rather than receiving a notification for copyright violations, sites now face immediate action — up to and including being taken down before they have a chance to respond.” As the Washington Post points out:
“Intermediary sites like YouTube and Flickr could lose their ‘safe harbor’ protections. Nonprofit or low-budget sites might not have the resources to defend themselves against costly lawsuits. And, meanwhile, larger companies like Google and Facebook could be forced to spend considerable time and money policing their millions of offerings each day for offending material.”
As far as the idea of breaking the Internet, sites in violation of the bill could be de-listed from the Domain Name System, meaning U.S. service providers would have to act as though the site didn’t exist at all. Users might then seek out foreign servers to host their material which brings a whole other issue of security into question.
Obviously, the entertainment industry has a right to want to protect its revenue streams, but do their rights come before those of all Americans? The way in which the bills seek to eliminate piracy could very well eliminate the business models Google and Reddit have built entire companies around, or even your everyday blogger who has created a business for herself by killing the very thing we admire most about the internet: information that is readily accessible and can be easily shared. It may be necessary for Congress to approach this issue from another angle.
The Senate is expected to vote on the issue Jan. 24, meanwhile Google is asking Americans to sign a petition to end piracy, not liberty.
What do you think about the PIPA and SOPA bills? Do you oppose or support the legislation? What do you think would be a better way for Congress to address Internet piracy?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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