Posts Tagged ‘Lame duck’

Daily Fix, Dec 23

December 23, 2010

In today’s Fix: a re-cap of the lame-duck session, a Utah legislator makes ATR’s “nice” list, Scott Matheson is confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court, the 4 people have tossed their hat in the ring (so far) to replace Ron Bigelow, the top 20 things that became obsolete during the last decade and awkward family Christmas photos.

*The lame-duck session has seen its final vote cast and Congress is headed home – at last! To recap the lame-duck legislation: START was ratified, the pork-laden omnibus was shot down, the Food Safety Act sailed through unanimously after some hiccups on the way, the-healthcare-for 9/11-first responders passed and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed (see – laws CAN be repealed. Looking forward to lots more of that.) On we go with the lame-duck session: The DREAM Act died, the current tax rates were extended two more years and the FCC approves Net Neutrality rules.  I haven’t seen a final price tag on what this lame-duck session cost the US taxpayers, but I guarantee it’s high.

*Utah Senator Dan Liljenquist made the Grover Norquist’s “Americans for Tax Reform” (ATR) “Nice” list on their much-anticipated annual Christmas card.  Senator Liljenquist was chosen for his work on pension reform and joins such luminaries as New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, “who stared down government union bosses, Gene Simmons who wishes he could take his Obama vote back, Snooki who called out the President on his tanning tax and to, well –  Charlie Rangel.  Charlie made the list “for lowering at least one American’s tax burden!”

*Scott Matheson, brother to Congressman Jim Matheson was confirmed to the 10th Circuit Court today, following up on an Obama promise made earlier this year.

*The 4 people who are currently vying to replace Ron Bigelow in legislative district 32 are James Leigh, Fred Cox, Sharon Naegle and Sherri Winder.  With 30-something delegates, the new Representative is going to be elected by a small handful of people.

*Huffington Post has a fun photo-essay on their picks for the top 20 items to have become obsolete in the last decade.  Their choices include VHS tapes (gone the way of the 8-track), snail mail letters and catalogs, classified ads in “hard copy” newspapers, bookstores and travel agents.

*Finally, to quote Sausagegrinder: “If none of that interests you,” just be glad YOUR family Christmas picture didn’t end up on this list of the “Most Awkward Family Holiday Photos!”

House invokes martial law!

December 8, 2010

Not with the National Guard but with the lame duck session, which is almost as concerning and perhaps more dangerous. Rep. Louise Slaughter introduced martial law this morning, effective through December 18th. Under “martial law“, the rules that require at least one day between the unveiling of significant legislation and the House floor vote on that legislation is tossed out the door.

Now, the lame-duck, Democrat majority leadership can file legislation with tens, hundreds or even thousands of pages of fine print and move immediately to debate and subsequent voting. We’ve seen something like this before. Earlier this year, it was called the “Slaughter” rule or “deem-and-pass“. No need for Representatives to know what they are passing – or “we the people.”

Another new set of bills we’ll have to pass to find out what’s in them.

And, you want another real kicker? The “continuing resolution” that allows the government to keep operating in the absence of a budget now has incorporated the language of the Food Safety Bill. That means if we fund government, S510 becomes law. Doncha just love the lame-duck???

Poor hurt the most by expiration of Bush tax cuts

October 7, 2010

On Jan 1st, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire. The child tax credit will be cut in half, the standard deductions and income credits decrease and the 10 percent tax bracket – aimed at non-wealthy taxpayers – goes away.

While wealthier taxpayers pay more in taxes and stand to lose more in total dollars, the impact on low-income taxpayers will be far greater since they live on much slimmer margins.

In a new report from the Tax Foundation, author Nick Kasprak points out that in spite of repeated promises that the cuts will be extended, “the current Congress has shown itself to be unusually susceptible to gridlock so the threat of automatic, full expiration of all these cuts is quite real.” In fact, even though we heard last year that the death tax would go away completely, ten months later, Democratic leaders have yet to follow through on that promise.

If predictions for Republican wins in the Senate races in Illinois and West Virginia hold true, those new members will be sworn in immediately. That will give the GOP 43 seats in the upper chamber and the Democrats will have a very difficult time getting the 60 votes they need to pass the legislation to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, but let them expire for the “wealthy.” They will then be faced with the choice to extend the cuts for ALL, or do nothing and let them expire, hurting those at the lower end of the income scale.

“When comparing changes in after-tax income, low-income workers benefited substantially from the Bush-era tax cuts, and so they would pay much higher taxes if political gridlock allows the imminent expirations to occur on schedule,” Kasprak said.

Additionally, low-income taxpayers have benefited from many temporary stimulus measures enacted in 2009 that are also set to expire at the end of this year: a further expansion of the earned income credit for couples, greater refundability of the child tax credit, and bigger credits for college education.

The Making Work Pay credit that appears in paychecks and boosts take-home pay up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples is also slated to expire next year.

The report shows that inaction on these tax measures will cost a married couple with two dependents earning $40,000 about $2,643. Their after-tax income would drop from $41,513 (if the cuts are extended) to $38,870.

Those cuts could have been extended if the Blue Dog coalition, led by Jim Matheson, had not hidden behind Pelosi’s skirts.

Lame duck immigration legislation

October 6, 2010

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced an immigration bill a couple of days before the Senate adjourned until November 15th. There was, of course, no time to act on that bill except to refer it to committee where it will likely die. Republicans weren’t impressed.

According to a Politico article:

Republicans think the legislation is just a game to gin up the base, potentially in heavily Hispanic parts of the country.

The fall push for immigration reform is “for effect rather than reality,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who previously sponsored the DREAM Act but doesn’t support it now, called it nothing more than a “cynical ploy for votes.”

“Sooner or later, we’ve got to do it, but anything done in this time period is just for show,” Hatch told POLITICO. “Apparently, [Menendez] thinks there is some benefit, but it is cynical and it’s not right to do it at this point. And it’s very unlikely for it to have any success. In fact, it’s impossible.”

Ironically, Senator Hatch introduced his own lame-duck immigration bill the very next day. He said his bill would go a long way towards securing the border and clamping down on identity theft and drug cartels.

Not everyone was impressed with his efforts either. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:

Eli Cawley, chairman of the Utah Minuteman Project, says he doesn’t believe Hatch is serious about the issue and overlooked the businesses that hire undocumented immigrants.

“I think he completely misses the boat when it comes to the real problem with illegal immigration,” Cawley said.

Without going after the businesses that hire the immigrants, and their connections with those who smuggle them across the border, the flow of immigrants will continue, Cawley said.

Ben Johnson, the executive director of the Washington-based American Immigration Council, says Hatch’s bill is simply more of the same rhetoric that’s been tossed around for a while and does nothing to move the debate forward.

“The reality is that there too many politicians, and I think, unfortunately, Senator Hatch is beginning to fall into that category, introducing legislation not in any effort to actually get it passed but to send messages to their constituents,” Johnson said.

No more Right-to-Work states?

October 5, 2010

Utah is one of 22 right-to-work states where workers can actually CHOOSE whether to join a union or not, if their work is unionized. In the other 28 states – also called “forced dues” states – anyone working at a unionized place of employment is forced to pay union dues or lose their jobs.

In 1947, the National Labor Relations Act was amended and allowed states the right to establish “Right-to-Work” laws. That ability is contained within a single paragraph. (What? It didn’t take 2000 pages to get a law passed?!) That paragraph reads simply:

(b) [Agreements requiring union membership in violation of State law] Nothing in this Act [subchapter] shall be construed as authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or application is prohibited by State or Territorial law.

Obviously, removal of this one paragraph would then return all states to “forced-dues” status. California Congressman Brad Sherman (D) has introduced legislation that would do just that.

From his website:

Today, Congressman Brad Sherman announced the introduction of dramatic legislation that would eliminate so-called “right-to-work” laws, which was applauded by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Sherman has a strong record of supporting working men and women and earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO….

I do not believe that there should be a right to be treated unfairly or to endure unnecessary restrictions. Right-to-work laws strip unions of their legitimate ability to collect dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This forces unions to use their time and members’ dues to provide benefits to free riders who are exempt from paying their fair share,” said Congressman Brad Sherman. “These laws are harmful to states like California, which allows labor unions to organize, because now we have to compete with the race to the bottom as our companies have to compete with those where the workers would like better wages, working conditions and benefits but are unable to organize to get them.”

With the introduction of legislation banning so-called right-to-work, Congressman Sherman has once again demonstrated his strong commitment to working families,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “Right-to-work laws undermine the economy and weaken workers’ ability to bargain for better working conditions, which translates into lower pay and fewer benefits for everyone.”

This is not the first time that Congressman Sherman has introduced this legislation, but this year, with a lame-duck Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it’s possible he might actually get some traction. The unions – HUGE donors to Democrat campaigns – are undoubtedly doing backflips of joy.

Right here in Utah, unions have donated a quarter of a million dollars to Peter Corroon’s gubernatorial race and state legislative races.


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