Forget Libya; the real bombing is underway elsewhere. Pay less attention to Pakistan; the drone attacks there pale in comparison.
The real US war is about to erupt in Washington pitting those who believe government has a necessary role to play and those determined to weaken it.
The former understand that, without regulations, without rules, without programs for those in need, we could have a system collapse -- perhaps even an uprising -- that will make Wisconsin look like a real tea party.
But America's would be political suicide bombers could care less. They are on a holy our-way-or-the-highway mission.
What would a shutdown mean? The Boston Globe calls it a “downshift”:
A federal 'shutdown’ is more like a massive downshift — the federal government reaches too deeply into the crevices of daily American life to close. Social Security payments would still be made. Air traffic controllers would scan the skies. The mail should arrive at the doorstep.
by Michael Mechanic
In a Sunday press release calling on wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their share, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont offered a list of what he calls "some of the 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders."
Sanders, you'll recall, made headlines for his epic 8.5-hour speech/filibuster this past December, dealing with how Obama's pending tax-cut deal with the GOP would be bad for America. The speech—published this month as a paperback simply titled The Speech—was in vain: Congress passed the deal, extending tax breaks not merely to the poor and middle-class, but to America's richest people.
It also slashed the estate tax from 55 percent to 35 percent and exempted the first $5 million of an estate's value ($10 million for a couple)—up from $1 million pre-Bush. In his speech, Sanders warned against this change, noting, "Let us be very clear: This tax applies only—only—to the top three-tenths of 1 percent of American families; 99.7 percent of American families will not pay one nickel in an estate tax. This is not a tax on the rich, this is a tax on the very, very, very rich. (Click here for our blockbuster charts showing just how rich the very, very, very rich actually are.)
by Kevin Drum
I'm a longtime advocate of the position that, cases of clear self-defense aside, Congress should issue a declaration of war before the president commits combat troops overseas. At the same time, I recognize that this virtually never happens anymore. At best we get vaguely worded "authorizations of force," at worst we get nothing at all. Every president since Roosevelt, and most of them before him, have operated this way. So I'm not especially put out that President Obama failed to get congressional approval before committing the United States to support the no-fly zone over Libya. He's just acting the way every president in recent memory has acted. Matt Yglesias offers up this explanation for our current state of affairs:
The main reason congress tends, in practice, not to use this authority is that congress rarely wants to. Congressional Democrats didn’t block the “surge” in Iraq, congressional Republicans didn’t block the air war in Kosovo, etc. And for congress, it’s quite convenient to be able to duck these issues. Handling Libya this way means that those members of congress who want to go on cable and complain about the president’s conduct are free to do so, but those who don’t want to talk about Libya can say nothing or stay vague. Nobody’s forced to take a vote that may look bad in retrospect, and nobody in congress needs to take responsibility for the success or failure of the mission. If things work out well in Libya, John McCain will say he presciently urged the White House to act. If things work out poorly in Libya, McCain will say he consistently criticized the White House’s fecklessness. Nobody needs to face a binary “I endorse what Obama’s doing / I oppose what Obama’s doing” choice.
A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.
Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.
Kucinich also questioned why Democratic leaders didn’t object when President Barack Obama told them of his plan for American participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone during a White House Situation Room meeting on Friday, sources told POLITICO.
by JOE NOCERA
The piñata sat alone at the witness table, facing the members of the House subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit.
The Wednesday morning hearing was titled “Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The only witness was the piñata, otherwise known as Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor hired last year by President Obama to get the new bureau — the only new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — up and running. She may or may not be nominated by the president to serve as its first director when it goes live in July, but in the here and now she’s clearly running the joint.
And thus the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.
Some members of Congress haven't been shy about criticizing underfunded state and local pension plans, even though they themselves enjoy much heftier retirement packages than most private-sector employees and state workers do.
Budget battles in New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio have captured headlines of late as lawmakers struggle over how to pay retirement benefits for state and local government workers. Some Washington lawmakers have added fuel to the flaming national debate.
In a recent speech to South Carolina Republicans, for example, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said "we've got to get real about what we can and cannot afford" in state pensions.
From the other pole of debate, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown linked opponents of public sector unions to Nazi Germany.For all the theater, members of Congress, regardless of party, aren't saying much about their own retirement plans, which are much more generous than those held by most Americans. In fairness, the nation's lawmakers hold responsibilities more comparable to top corporate executives than to average workers, but there's no available data on CEOs' retirement packages, which typically feature forms of compensation other than pensions, such as stock options.
On the heels of their 18-1, Democratic Senator-free vote to roll back collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers, Republican leaders of the Wisconsin state Senate will head to a high-price fundraiser in their honor in DC.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel key players in the Wisconsin GOP will gather at the downtown DC headquarters of lobbying firm BGR Group March 16 for an event that donors "are asked to give at least $1,000 to the state Republican Party's federal account" to attend.
It takes $1,000 to get you in the door, but "sponsors" are asked to pony up $2,500 and "hosts" 5,000.
Some of the names on the list of elected Wisconsin Republicans scheduled to attend, according to the Journal Sentinel:
by Kate Sheppard
Over the years, there have been plenty of hard-fought environmental skirmishes in Congress, but Henry Waxman thinks the latest battle over the future of climate policy in the US could be the toughest one yet. In remarks at the Center for American Progress on Monday, the California Democrat, who helped to usher in 1990's landmark Clean Air Act amendments, accused his Republican colleagues of taking an increasingly anti-science bent.
"Protection of the environment is now a partisan battleground," Waxman said. "On climate change, we can't even agree whether there is a problem." That's not to say things were peachy in the past; there were of course major battles over measures to curb acid rain, toxic power plant emissions, and other environmental protections. But, Waxman said, "I've never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and public policy."
His remarks come at the beginning of what is shaping up to be an interesting week on that front. On Tuesday, the House subcommittee on energy and power will hold a hearing on climate science and the Environmental Protection Agency's new greenhouse gas regulations. And on Thursday, Republicans on that committee plan to move forward with legislation that would decimate those rules.
House and Senate Republicans have put forward a joint proposal that would not only amend the Clean Air Act to say explicitly that it does not apply to greenhouse gas emissions, but would also nullify the EPA's scientific finding that those gases pose a threat to humankind (a conclusion that even the Bush-era EPA had reached).
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
Richard Nixon espoused what he called "the madman theory." It's a
negotiating approach that induces the other side to believe you are capable of
dangerously irrational actions and leads it to back down to avoid the wreckage
your rage might let loose.
House Republicans are pursuing their own madman theory in budget
negotiations, with a clever twist: Speaker John Boehner is casting himself as the
reasonable man fully prepared to reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown.
But he also has to satisfy a band of "wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshmen," as he
characterized new House members in a Wall Street Journal interview last
week by way of comparing them fondly to his younger self.
Thus are negotiators for President Obama and Senate Democrats forced to
deal not only with Republican leaders in the room but also with a menacing
specter outside its confines. As "responsible" public officials, Democrats are
asked to make additional concessions just to keep the bomb-throwers at bay.
Democrats are launching an internet, radio and telephone campaign against two New York Republicans as part of their bid to take back control of the House of Representatives next November.
In its first big push of the 2012 election cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting 19 Republicans it believes will be especially vulnerable, including New York freshmen Reps. Nan Hayworth and Ann Marie Buerkle. Other targets hail from Florida, Illinois and other states.
The media blitz is part of the DCCC’s “Drive to 25″ campaign — a reference to the number of seats it needs to turn from red to blue next November to regain control of the House.
With radio ads, web spots, phone calls and e-mails, the DCCC is painting the lawmakers as bad for the U.S. economy by tying them to a Republican Study Committee proposal to pare trillions from the federal budget by cutting spending on education and research.