U.S. House approves legislation to give government blank check on debt ceiling

Proposal does not require a balanced budget or the reduction in government spending.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 24, 2013

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress approved the bill exalted by the Republicans that will extend the debt ceiling and the debate about it until 19 May.

The motion, passed with 285 votes in favor – 86 democrats – and 144 against – 33 Republicans – will allow the Treasury to borrow money but states that both houses of Congress must pass a budget (the Senate did that during the first year of Barack Obama’s first term) or else their salaries will be withheld.

The Congress should meet before the end of February to agree to increase the limit on how much money the country can borrow so that the government can pay its bills and debts.

The time that Congress has given itself will allow lawmakers now devote their time and energy to battle about the size of the U.S. budget. John Boehner, chairman of the House, ‘convinced’ his fellow conservatives that his new strategy is an opportunity to achieve significant cuts in some state programs, such as Medicare, health care those related to the elderly.

Republicans and Democrats are focused on cutting funds from indispensable social programs, which in most cases are the only safety net for millions of Americans. Despite continues calls for the reduction in military spending, both parties have refused to cut expenses in that area, but do not hesitate to cut important programs such as health and medical care for Americans.

Democrats showed opposition to the Republican proposal, with Nancy Pelosi describing it as a “joke” and Steny Hoyer saying it was just a “political stunt” that would only perpetuate “uncertainty”. A small group of Democrats supported it because it avoids, at least for now, the threat of bankruptcy and divorces the issue from the debt ceiling which Republicans claim needs to be linked to a cut in expenses. The same law will have no trouble in the Senate, where its leader, Democrat Harry Reid, has already advanced that he will give the green light.

The White House also welcomed the measure approved Wednesday. In his daily briefing, the president’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said Tuesday that if it came to the Oval Office, Obama would not veto the law. The current debt ceiling is at $16.4 trillion and the Republican proposal does not specify another amount, which will allow the government to make permitted to make automatic increases to avoid bankruptcy. This means the U.S. will be able to officially spend its way into oblivion without any Congressional supervision.

The bill allows the government to borrow the money it needs to meet its obligations, including interest payments. However, this is not a blank check to the Treasury, sponsors say, which may not borrow extra funds during the period of suspension to meet the deficit of a trillion dollars in 2013. In practice, however, it does look like a blank check for the Treasury and the U.S. government to borrow indiscriminately up until 19 May. In one sense, Republicans, Democrats and the White House continue to kick the can down the road as no real solution is given to the debt and spending problems.

The House of Republicans have reiterated over the last two years that would not increase the debt ceiling unless this increase was accompanied by the same amount of spending costs. However, the law passed yesterday does not state that have the supposed balancing of the budget must occur.

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As Predicted, Democrats Blame Tea Party for Downgrade

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said something diametrically opposite that does reflect reality: “The tea party hasn’t destroyed Washington. Washington was destroyed before the tea party got here.”

by Ben Wolfgang
Washington Post
August 8, 2011

While continuing to cast doubt on the credibility of Standard & Poor’s, several Democrats on Sunday said there is an even greater culprit in the downgrade of the nation’s credit rating: the tea party.

“I believe this is, without question, the tea party downgrade,” Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, a day that also saw mounting anxieties in world markets over the downgrade among myriad other economic woes worldwide. Some of the world’s top financial ministers issued a joint statement Sunday night committing themselves to preserve the stability of financial markets and their economies.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, used the exact same phrase in dubbing the credit rating drop the “tea party downgrade,” as Democrats tried to position themselves as reasonable, pragmatic leaders and conservative Republicans as irresponsible ideologues who caused the downgrade by refusing to accept any new taxes.

That’s exactly the kind of blame game that led Standard & Poor’s, one of three key credit-ratings agencies, to strip the U.S. federal government of its AAA status Friday night and reducing it to AA+ for the first time in the nation’s history.

“Congress and the administration are jointly responsible for the conduct of fiscal policy. So, this is not really about either political party,” David Beers, the head of S&P’s government debt-rating unit, said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

In justifying its actions, S&P cited the political gridlock that continues to paralyze Washington. Although Democrats and Republicans eventually came together last week and crafted a compromise bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, S&P decided it wasn’t enough to save the nation’s AAA status, a rating still held by France, Sweden and other countries, and businesses such as Coca-Cola Co. and Microsoft Corp.

“Even with the agreement of Congress and the administration this past week … the underlying debt burden of the U.S. government is rising and will continue to do so most likely over the next decade,” Mr. Beers said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, defended the tea party and said that without the movement, trillions of dollars in spending cuts wouldn’t be possible.

“Thank God they’re here,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever raised the debt ceiling where we tried to actually reduce spending. That’s a good thing, but we’re woefully short,” he said. “The tea party hasn’t destroyed Washington. Washington was destroyed before the tea party got here. The hope is that the tea party and middle-of-the-road people can find common ground to turn this country around before we become Greece.”

Democrats, who also had harsh words for S&P, said there’s enough blame to go around.

Lawrence H. Summers, former director of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council, on Sunday called the agency’s track record “terrible.” He referenced S&P’s highly positive ratings for mortgage-backed securities that tanked in 2008, which many blame for the ongoing economic crisis.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, in his first public comments on the credit downgrade, told CNBC that S&P had shown “terrible judgment.”

“They’ve handled themselves very poorly. And they’ve shown a stunning lack of knowledge about the basic U.S. fiscal budget math,” he said.

Democrats weren’t alone in their stinging critiques of S&P. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Steve Forbes, former Republican presidential candidate and CEO of Forbes Inc., said the downgrade was “outrageous” and “a political move.”

Read Full Article…

Pentagon does not account for Billions; Congress sends more Cash

by Robert Burns

The House prepared Tuesday to send President Barack Obama $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of tens of thousands of classified military documents that portray a war effort beset by Afghan shortcomings.

War Pigs continue financing Genocide in the Middle East

From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned anew by administration officials and military leaders, but the material failed to stir new anti-war sentiment. The bad news for the White House: A pervasive weariness with the war was still there — and possibly growing.

At a Senate hearing on prospects for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, there was scant mention of the leaked material, posted on the website of the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, but there were repeated expressions of frustration over the direction of the fighting.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has questioned the realism of U.S. goals in Afghanistan though he supports the war, pointedly asked why the Taliban, with fewer resources and smaller numbers, can field fighters who are more committed to winning than are Afghan soldiers.

“What’s going on here?” Kerry asked with exasperation.

Still, the House seemed ready to vote final approval for more than $33.5 billion for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to pay for other Pentagon operational expenses. Other non-war provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.

Republicans were strongly behind the major war spending, with opposition coming mostly from members of Obama’s own Democratic Party who argued that the money could be better spent at home. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the leaked documents revealed corruption and incompetence in the Afghanistan government.

“We’re told we can’t extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan,” McGovern said.

At the separate Senate hearing, meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., questioned whether the U.S.-led war effort is capable of pushing the Afghan government to provide the kind of leadership that wins the confidence of the population.

“Can we carry this off?” Kaufman asked.

In his first public comments on the weekend leak of tens of thousands of documents, Obama said it could “potentially jeopardize individuals or operations” in Afghanistan. But he also said the papers did not reveal any concerns that were not already part of the war debate.

Obama said the shortcomings in Afghanistan as reflected in the leaked documents explain why, last year, he undertook an in-depth review of the war and developed a new strategy.

“We’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan,” Obama said. “Now we have to see that strategy through.”

The leaked documents are battlefield reports compiled by various military units in Afghanistan that provide an unflinching view of combat operations between 2004 and 2009, including U.S. displeasure over reports that Pakistan secretly aided insurgents fighting American and Afghan forces.

Even as the administration dismissed the leaked documents as outdated, U.S. military and intelligence analysts were caught up in a struggle to limit the damage contained in the once-secret files now scattered across the Internet.

In Baghdad, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters he was “appalled” by the leak, which he said had the potential of putting troops’ lives at added risk.

Officials also are concerned about the impact the disclosures could have on the military’s human intelligence network built up over the past eight years inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The people in that network range from Afghan village elders who have worked behind the scenes with U.S. troops to militants working as double agents.

Beyond expressions of disgust at the document dump, the political fallout in Washington appeared limited.

Advocates of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan said the leaks reinforced their argument for disengaging. War supporters said they illustrated why Obama was right to decide last December to send an additional 30,000 troops and step up pressure on the Afghan government to reform, while pressing Pakistan to go after insurgents on its side of the border.

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said efforts to explain to Afghanistan and other allies that the U.S. government played no role in leaking the documents seemed to have paid off.

“We’re very gratified that the response thus far internationally has been moderate, sober,” Crowley said.

In his only reference to the leak, Kerry called the new material “over-hyped,” said that it was released in violation of the law and that it largely involved raw intelligence reports from the field.

The House, meanwhile, prepared to approve legislation to pay for the extra 30,000 troops.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said he was torn between his obligation to bring the bill to the floor and his “profound skepticism” that the money would lead to a successful conclusion of the war.

Even if there were greater confidence, he said, “it would likely take so long it will obliterate our ability to make the kinds of long-term investments in our own country that are so desperately needed.”

Checkmate on Obama’s Tax Care

American Spectator

In order to protect the new national health care law from legal challenges, the Obama administration has been forced to argue that

The Obama Administration has confessed to Obamacare being a tax after citizens legally challenge the system.

the individual mandate represents a tax — even though Obama himself argued the exact opposite while campaigning to pass the legislation.

Late last night, the Obama Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the Florida-based lawsuit against the health care law, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction and that the State of Florida and fellow plaintiffs haven’t presented a claim for which the court can grant relief. To bolster its case, the DOJ cited the Anti-Injunction Act, which restricts courts from interfering with the government’s ability to collect taxes.

The Act, according to a DOJ memo supporting the motion to dismiss, says that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person, whether or not such person is the person against whom such tax was assessed.” The memo goes on to say that it makes no difference whether the disputed payment it is called a “tax” or “penalty,” because either way, it’s “assessed and collected in the same manner” by the Internal Revenue Service.

But this is a characterization that Democrats, and specifically Obama, angrily denounced during the health care debate. Most prominently, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Obama argued that the mandate was “absolutely not a tax increase,” and he dug into his view even after being confronted with a dictionary definition:

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition. I mean what…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no, but…

OBAMA: …what you’re saying is…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it’s a tax increase?

OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.

At the time Obama made that statement, the Senate Finance Committee had just released its own health care bill, which clearly referred to the mandate penalty as an “excise tax.” But in later versions, the word “tax” was stripped, because it had become too much of a political liability for Democrats. The final version that Obama signed did not describe the mandate as a tax, and used the Commerce Clause — not federal taxing power — as the Constitutional justification for the mandate.

“”This is an about face from what is laid out in the law,” said Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business, which joined the Florida lawsuit against ObamaCare. “In the text of the healthcare law, the findings for passing an individual mandate specifically rely on the effects of individuals on the national economy and interstate commerce. Nowhere in the findings is the mandate referred to as a tax. The Justice Department is now calling it a tax to try and convince the court not to rule on whether or not Congress exceeded their authority under the Commerce Clause by legislating that all citizens must purchase private health insurance or face a penalty.”

Put another way, the administration is now arguing in federal court that Obama signed a massive middle-class tax increase, in violation of his campaign pledge.

Cap and Trade: Polluting is allowed so long you pay the banksters

Kerry and Lieberman want the industry to pay bankers a fee for emitting.  In other words, they want to legalize unlimited pollution.  The results will be an end to industry at the local and regional levels, with massive, worse than ever before emission for anyone who can pay the new tax (Transnational Corporations).  The bill presented in May will also regulate how much energy citizens can use. It will also pursue the same failed green policies Spain is now abandoning.

CNSNews

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said they are not worried that their cap-and-trade plan might harm

The Cap-and-Trade scheme is part of the largest transfer of money and resources from the poor and the middle class to the corporate Lords.

fellow Democrats going into the November elections, at a time when voters are more concerned about bread and butter issues such as the economy and the 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

The bill, the American Power Act,  was unveiled in May and would establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system that would regulate the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. In exchange, the bill would also extend various tax subsidies and credits in an attempt to make renewable energy sources relatively affordable.

Cap and trade basically means that a ceiling, a cap, would be placed on certain carbon-emitting manufacturers who would be allowed to exceed that cap if they purchase carbon credits (trade), the proceeds of which would be invested in alternative energy after the government collected a portion of those proceeds. (Some analysts describe the plan as “cap and tax.”)

CNSNews.com on Tuesday asked Sens. Kerry and Lieberman whether they were concerned that pushing such a low-priority issue so close to an election would reinforce the perception that Congress and its Democratic leaders were out of touch with the American people. (Lieberman, though an Independent, is a former Democrat who now caucuses with the Democrats in Congress.)

Lieberman acknowledged that the public is concerned with fiscal issues: “Deficit, debt is on the minds of the voters,” he said. “The American Power Act has been constructed to be deficit-neutral [and] we’re going to get the CBO analysis later this month or early next month.”

Kerry went on at length, saying that  Americans support many of the provisions in his bill: “When you put the worst arguments characterizing our legislation against the best arguments for energy independence — for jobs, for health, and cleaning up the environment — overwhelmingly Americans land on the side of a comprehensive bill,” said Kerry.

Kerry said that the debate going forward will not be about convincing the public of the veracity of global warming claims, but about trying to redefine cap and trade legislation as something that will benefit the struggling economy.

“Nothing that we do with respect to this bill rides on persuading people ultimately about climate [change],” Kerry said.

“Do Americans want to say no to anywhere from 250,000 to 540,000 jobs a year for the next 10-20 years? I don’t think so,” said Kerry.  “Do Americans want to let China take the lead in solar and wind technologies that we invented? I don’t think so. This is about getting America into the marketplace. This is a $6 trillion market with 6 billion potential users.”

Kerry and Lieberman, in an apparent nod to voters’ fiscal concerns, may have a steep hill to climb in convincing the public that their economic plan will lead to a better economy.

Polls show that Americans are not particularly taken with the issue of global warming, the driving force behind the Kerry-Lieberman effort. A March 2010 Gallup survey, for example, found that 48 percent of Americans thought that global warming claims were exaggerated.

That same survey found that 67 percent of Americans thought that global warming would not pose a serious threat to their well-being in the future.

Polls also have shown that global warming does not rank high on Americans’ list of concerns. An April 2010 Gallup survey found that Americans ranked environmental issues and global warming last when asked which issues they thought were the most important in determining how they will vote in November 2010.

Only 46 percent of Americans said that global warming was either “extremely” or “very” important to their voting decisions. By contrast, 93 percent said the economy was either very or extremely important to their voting choices. In fact, the economy was the only issue of the seven polled that a majority of voters, 53 percent, called extremely important to their voting decision.

Global warming was ranked as extremely important by only 22 percent of respondents.

The same March 2010 Gallup survey that showed skepticism of global warming also found that only 30 percent of the public thought that energy and climate legislation would either probably or definitely help the economy. Among those, only six percent thought federal legislation would definitely help.

Conversely, 48 percent thought that federal climate and energy legislation would either definitely or probably hurt the economy. The percentage of Americans who thought that federal energy legislation would either probably or definitely hurt the economy actually rose from one year ago, the survey found, while the number of people who thought the legislation might be beneficial declined.