Senate Blocks Obama’s $447 Billion Job Creation Legislation

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) — Opponents of President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan blocked the measure in the Senate, with two Democrats joining Republicans to derail his prime proposal to help turn around the struggling economy.

The tally on the test vote wasn’t completed by early evening as the roll call remained open for Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, who was on her way back to Washington to vote in support of the plan. More than 40 senators voted against permitting debate on the measure, effectively shelving it.

The broad plan includes cuts in payroll taxes for workers and employers and provides new funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the measure a “lousy idea” that relies on proposals similar to 2009’s $825 billion stimulus, an effort he said that failed to work.

“If voting against another stimulus is the only way we can get Democrats in Washington to finally abandon this failed approach to job creation, then so be it,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Senate Democratic leaders last week revised the president’s initial proposal, partly to try to pick up more support within their party.

That scrapped Obama’s method of paying for the jobs plan, including higher taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year. Senate leaders substituted a 5.6 percent surtax on people making at least $1 million annually.

‘Tax Gimmicks’

Even so, Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska opposed the plan. “I can’t support tax gimmicks that do little to create jobs” and don’t address the need for a bipartisan deficit-cutting plan, Tester said in a statement.

Before the Senate voted, Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans

– who are trying to take control of the Senate and White House in 2012

– of attempting to hamper the economy for political benefit. He said Republicans are opposing job-creation ideas they supported in previous years.

“Republicans oppose those ideas now because they have a proven track record of creating jobs, and Republicans think if the economy improves it might help President Obama,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “So they root for the economy to fail, and oppose every effort to improve it.”

Pressing Ahead

Obama vowed to press ahead and seek to get individual provisions of his plan passed by Congress.

“Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” Obama said in a statement. As they vote on each component “members of Congress can either explain to their constituents why they’re against common-sense, bipartisan proposals to create jobs, or they can listen to the overwhelming majority of American people who are crying out for action.”

The vote leaves Obama’s economic agenda in limbo because the political parties disagree about what should be done to lower the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate, said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP in Washington. Republicans seek permanent tax cuts and deregulation, while Obama and congressional Democrats want more federal spending and short-term tax reductions.

“The president’s jobs initiative is at the end of its legislative life

– not that it really had one,” Stretch said. He said the focus will likely shift away from jobs and toward the work of a congressional supercommittee that is tasked with cutting $1.5 billion from the federal deficit over 10 years.

Obama’s Plan

Obama proposes to create jobs by cutting payroll taxes for workers and employers by half, extending jobless benefits, providing aid to states for schools and emergency workers and boosting spending on public works projects such as roads and bridges. He also would provide tax breaks for employers to hire the unemployed.

The plan considered today would be financed by Senate Democratic leaders’ proposed surtax, which the U.S. Congressional Budget Office said would raise $453 billion.

Obama endorsed the leaders’ plan. He had proposed capping itemized deductions for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $250,000. He also proposed raising taxes on private equity firm managers, real estate investors and venture capitalists, and ending oil and gas subsidies.

‘Issues of Inequality’

The new method of offsetting the bill’s costs still ran into Democratic opposition. Senator James Webb, a Virginia Democrat, said he would vote to let debate start, but wouldn’t support the Senate jobs legislation as it was drafted. He said a tax on millionaires that is income-based fails to address real issues of inequality in the tax code. He said the best method to spread the tax burden would be to boost taxes on capital gains.

“The present proposal looks good at first glance; it sounds good on a TV bite, but in all respect to the people who put it forward, I do not believe it’s smart policy and it does not go where the real economic division lies in our country,” Webb said.

In the House, Obama’s plan also faces hurdles. Republicans who hold the majority oppose the tax increases, and party leaders there also have said it adds spending in many areas already bolstered in 2009’s economic stimulus measure.

House Republican leaders say some of Obama’s ideas, such as payroll tax cuts, are worth considering.

The Senate bill is S. 1660.

–With assistance from Margaret Talev in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Ben Richardson

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net

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Will Obama Play the War Card?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com

Republicans already counting the seats they will pick up this fall should keep in mind Obama has a big card yet to play.

Should the president declare he has gone the last mile for a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear program and impose the “crippling” sanctions he promised in 2008, America would be on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.

And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.

Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the presidents side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.

Senate bill 2799 would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.

And cutting off a country’s oil or gas is a proven path to war.

In 1941, the United States froze Japans assets, denying her the funds to pay for the U.S. oil on which she relied, forcing Tokyo either to retreat from her empire or seize the only oil in reach, in the Dutch East Indies.

The only force able to interfere with a Japanese drive into the East Indies? The U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Egypts Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1967 threatened to close the Straits of Tiran between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba to ships going to the Israeli port of Elath. That would have cut off 95 percent of Israel’s oil.

Israel response: a pre-emptive war that destroyed Egypt’s air force and put Israeli troops at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran.

Were Reid and colleagues seeking to strengthen Obama’s negotiating hand?

The opposite is true. The Senate is trying to force Obama’s hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war a war to deny Iran weapons that the U.S. Intelligence community said in December 2007 Iran gave up trying to acquire in 2003.

Sound familiar?

Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made clear the Senate is seizing control of the Iran portfolio. “If the Obama administration will not take action against this regime, then Congress must.”

U.S. interests would seem to dictate supporting those elements in Iran who wish to be rid of the regime and re-engage the West. But if that is our goal, the Senate bill, and a House version that passed 412 to 12, seem almost diabolically perverse.

For a cutoff in gas would hammer Irans middle class. The Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia on their motorbikes would get all they need. Thus the leaders of the Green Movement who have stood up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah oppose sanctions that inflict suffering on their own people.

Cutting off gas to Iran would cause many deaths. And the families of the sick, the old, the weak, the women and the children who die are unlikely to feel gratitude toward those who killed them.

And despite the hysteria about Iran’s imminent testing of a bomb, the U.S. intelligence community still has not changed its finding that Tehran is not seeking a bomb.

The low-enriched uranium at Natanz, enough for one test, has neither been moved nor enriched to weapons grade. Ahmadinejad this week offered to take the Wests deal and trade it for fuel for its reactor. Irans known nuclear facilities are under U.N. watch. The number of centrifuges operating at Natanz has fallen below 4,000. There is speculation they are breaking down or have been sabotaged.

And if Iran is hell-bent on a bomb, why has Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair not revised the 2007 finding and given us the hard evidence?

U.S. anti-missile ships are moving into the Gulf. Anti-missile batteries are being deployed on the Arab shore. Yet, Gen. David Petraeus warned yesterday that a strike on Iran could stir nationalist sentiment behind the regime.

Nevertheless, the war drums have again begun to beat.

Daniel Pipes in a National Review Online piece featured by the Jerusalem Post “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” urges Obama to make a “dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue” by ordering the U.S. military to attack Irans nuclear facilities.

Citing six polls, Pipes says Americans support an attack today and will “presumably rally around the flag” when the bombs fall.

Will Obama cynically yield to temptation, play the war card and make “conservatives swoon,” in Pipes phrase, to save himself and his party? We shall see.

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The Big Hate

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Krugman

Back in April, there was a huge fuss over an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security warning that current conditions resemble those in the early 1990s — a time marked by an upsurge of right-wing extremism that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Conservatives were outraged. The chairman of the Republican National Committee denounced the report as an attempt to “segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration” and label them as terrorists.

But with the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, closely followed by a shooting by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the analysis looks prescient.

There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn’t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.

Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence, despite Bill O’Reilly’s declarations that “some” called Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer,” that he had “blood on his hands,” and that he was a “guy operating a death mill.” But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.

And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.

Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox News’s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news — and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administration’s “totalitarian” agenda (although he eventually conceded that nothing of the kind was happening).

But let’s not neglect the print news media. In the Bush years, The Washington Times became an important media player because it was widely regarded as the Bush administration’s house organ. Earlier this week, the newspaper saw fit to run an opinion piece declaring that President Obama “not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself,” and that in any case he has “aligned himself” with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

And then there’s Rush Limbaugh. His rants today aren’t very different from his rants in 1993. But he occupies a different position in the scheme of things. Remember, during the Bush years Mr. Limbaugh became very much a political insider. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup survey, 10 percent of Republicans now consider him the “main person who speaks for the Republican Party today,” putting him in a three-way tie with Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. So when Mr. Limbaugh peddles conspiracy theories — suggesting, for example, that fears over swine flu were being hyped “to get people to respond to government orders” — that’s a case of the conservative media establishment joining hands with the lunatic fringe.

It s not surprising, then, that politicians are doing the same thing. The R.N.C. says that “the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.” And when Jon Voight, the actor, told the audience at a Republican fund-raiser this week that the president is a “false prophet” and that “we and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, thanked him, saying that he “really enjoyed” the remarks.

Credit where credit is due. Some figures in the conservative media have refused to go along with the big hate — people like Fox’s Shepard Smith and Catherine Herridge, who debunked the attacks on that Homeland Security report two months ago. But this doesn’t change the broad picture, which is that supposedly respectable news organizations and political figures are giving aid and comfort to dangerous extremism.

What will the consequences be? Nobody knows, of course, although the analysts at Homeland Security fretted that things may turn out even worse than in the 1990s — that thanks, in part, to the election of an African-American president, “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.”

And that’s a threat to take seriously. Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril.

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