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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Dems’ immigration proposal creates national ID card, ‘fingerprints’ database

Raw Story

Democrat: Public more comfortable with idea of national ID cardbiometric ID

Civil liberties groups and even some die-hard supporters of the Democratic Party are raising the alarm over the Democrats’ proposed immigration overhaul, which would see the creation of a national biometric ID card.

“If the biometric national ID card provision of the draft bill becomes law, every worker in America would have to be fingerprinted and a new federal bureaucracy – one that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars – would have to be created to issue cards,” the ACLU said in a statement Thursday, following the release of Senate Democrat’s 28-page proposal (PDF) for comprehensive immigration reform.

“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy – one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel.

As Ezra Klein notes at the Washington Post, no fewer than 10 pages of the proposal are devoted to the “Believe System,” which sets up an ID card for everyone in the work force. “Believe” is an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. The Social Security Administration would be responsible for running the ID card system.

The Democrats’ proposal, whose main backers include Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, makes it clear that the ID cards are intended solely for the purpose of eliminating undocumented immigrants from the work force. It would be illegal for any corporation, level of government or law enforcement officer “to require or even ask an individual cardholder to produce their social security card for any purpose other than electronic verification of employment eligibility and verification of identity for Social Security Administration purposes.”

But that does not satisfy many activist groups, including some pro-Democrat groups supporting immigration reform. An unnamed representative of one such group told The Hill that the ID card proposal sounds “Orwellian.”

The ID card proposal “will give people some pause,” said Angela Kelley, immigration policy chief at the liberal Center for American Progress, as quoted at The Hill.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, defended the proposal in the face of early criticism, telling The Hill that he believes the public has become more comfortable with the idea of a national identification card.

“The biometric identification card is a critical element here,” Durbin said. “For a long time it was resisted by many groups, but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification. … People understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification.”

Among the other elements of the immigration proposal is an eight-year waiting list for amnesty for undocumented migrants. Provided an undocumented migrant currently in the US pays his or her taxes, does not commit a crime and learns English in an eight-year period, they will be eligible for legal status.

The proposal comes just one day after both President Barack Obama and the top Republican House representative suggested that immigration reform is unlikely to happen this year. There “may not be an appetite” for immigration reform this year, Obama said, while House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “There is not a chance that immigration is going to move through the Congress.”

The proposal is taking heat in many corners of the media that tend to be supportive of Democratic initiatives.

The plan “outdoes Arizona in bigotry,” asserts Anis Shivani at the Huffington Post.

More….