Friday, December 19, 2014

Before Leaving Town, the Senate Passed a Corporate Tax Giveaway. Who were the only 8 Ds to vote NO?

n Tuesday, before leaving town, the Senate voted to pass H.R. 5771, the so-called Taxpayer Increase Prevention Act. The House had voted for this corporate tax giveaway two weeks ago in a strong bipartisan vote of 378 to 46 because everybody loves giving out tax cuts for Christmas.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gave a strong floor speech on the folly of the bill:
The so-called “tax extenders” package includes the one-year extension of a hodgepodge of over four dozen tax provisions.  This extension is not for the year ahead of us, as one might reasonably expect, but rather for the year that’s mostly past us.  In other words, we will be extending for 2014 tax programs that expired at the end of 2013.  This means that, for the most part, the bill will offer credits and deductions to reward things that have already happened while doing absolutely nothing to help businesses and individuals plan for the future.
If tax policy is intended to influence behavior, the extenders bill is a double failure: it spends money rewarding things that have already happened and offers no incentives for businesses and individuals for the year ahead.
Let’s take for example the production tax credit for wind energy, a program I strongly support that encourages the construction of wind farms.  The provision in the extenders bill offers this incentive for properties for which construction has commenced by the end of 2014.  That’s three weeks from now.  Instead of giving energy companies time to plan and prepare wind projects, we’re saying: if you happen to have one ready to go, you’ve got until the end of the holiday season to break ground.  The clock is ticking.
In contrast to Congress’s temporary, year-to-year treatment of the wind tax credit and other incentives for renewable energy, Big Oil and Gas enjoy permanent subsidies in the tax code.  It’s long past time to reform the tax code so it reflects America’s 21st Century energy priorities.  Permanent incentives for oil and gas and temporary programs for renewable energy is simply upside-down public policy.    
In total, there are 50 or so extensions in this bill, and the only thing they seem to have in common is that Congress repeatedly packages them together.  It’s truly a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Let’s start with some of the good provisions.  In addition to clean energy incentives, the bill extends a popular tax credit that encourages businesses to hire veterans, a host of incentives for energy efficiency, and a provision that ensures that families that lose their homes in foreclosure don’t incur tax bills for the deficiencies.  These provisions have strong bipartisan support.
Then there’s the bad: the unjustifiable tax giveaways.  These include so-called “bonus depreciation,” a program that allows corporations to deduct the costs of equipment right away instead of spreading out the deductions over the life of the equipment.  Congress first included this provision in 2009 in the Recovery Act when it made some sense.  The idea was to encourage businesses to accelerate their purchases when the economy most needed the investments.  We’ve extended it so many times, though, that now we’re just giving money away to corporations for buying things they would have bought anyway.  That’s a nice subsidy for the businesses, but not a wise use of taxpayer dollars.
The bill also includes tax giveaways for NASCAR tracks and racehorses.  While I know these sports are popular, it’s hard to justify subsidizing them with taxpayer dollars at a time when we’re running large deficits and face the prospect of more budget sequestration.  
And then there’s the ugly, the stuff that does actual harm.  There’s a pair of provisions in the bill--the “active financing” and “controlled foreign corporation look through” provisions--that reward U.S. corporations for shifting money overseas to avoid paying taxes.  Sadly, there are already a number of provisions in the tax code that encourage companies to move operations and assets overseas.  We should repeal those provisions, not enhance them as the extenders bill does.
He also called out Republican hypocrisy: the same Republicans demanding that an extension of emergency unemployment compensation be offset have no problem with increasing the deficit by $41 billion via tax giveaways.

Unfortunately, just like in the House, the bill passed easily: 76-16.

44 Democrats, 1 Independent (Angus King), and 31 Republicans voted for it.

8 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted against it.

Who were the 8 Democrats who voted against it?

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were not present for the vote. Bernie, I believe, was already en route to Iowa for previously scheduled talks.

Brown, Manchin, and Warren had all voted to filibuster and reject the CRomnibus bill Saturday night. Merkley, Whitehouse, and Wyden had voted against its final passage with them, but had voted for cloture.

Warren, Markey, and Baldwin Demand Answers from USTR on Backdoor Financial Deregulation in the TPP

On Tuesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to US Trade Representative Michael Froman demanding answers about backdoor financial deregulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The senators highlight three parts of the TPP that could undermine current and future efforts to regulate Wall Street and prevent another financial crisis:

(1) Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which allows foreign companies or investors to sue governments for losses in expected profits

(2) "Market access" provisions that could prohibit restrictions on predatory financial products, like risky forms of derivatives

(3) Limitations on governments' ability to impose capital controls, which could stymie efforts to prevent future financial crises as well as efforts to pass a financial transaction tax

The senators asked USTR Michael Froman to respond to their questions, with negotiating text documentation, by January 6th.

Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Ambassador Froman:

We are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises. With millions of families still struggling to recover from the last financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, we cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy.
Our concerns relate to three specific provisions that could be part of the TPP:

Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The investor-state dispute settlement process permits foreign companies to bypass American courts and challenges U.S. government policies before a panel of private attorneys that sits outside any domestic legal system. If the foreign company prevails, the panel can order compensation from American taxpayers without any review by American courts. The investor-state dispute settlement process thus gives foreign companies a greater right to challenge U.S. government policies than their American counterparts. And because the investor-state process is available only to investors, it gives investors a far greater ability to challenge state practices than it gives labor unions, environmental groups, or any non-investor with an interest in a trade deal.
Past trade deals have included terms that allowed foreign firms to use the investor-state dispute settlement process to challenge a wide range of government financial policy decisions. For example, in 2006, an investor-state dispute settlement panel ordered a government to pay a foreign company $236 million because the government had not bailed out a private bank in which the foreign company owned a stake.
Similar provisions in the TPP would be troubling enough because they would expose a broad array of critical American financial regulations to challenge by many additional foreign companies. Yet at a recent congressional briefing, a representative from your office stated that U.S. negotiators hoped to include an even broader provision in the TPP—one that would guarantee foreign companies a “minimum standard of treatment” with respect to U.S. financial regulations. No prior U.S. trade deal has exposed U.S. financial policies to that vague obligation. The “minimum standard of treatment” provision has been the basis for the majority of successful investor-state claims to date under U.S. deals, and if it is extended to financial companies in the TPP, it could expose American financial regulations to challenge on the basis that they frustrated a foreign company’s expectations.
We believe that the TPP should not include an investor-state dispute settlement process. Including such provisions in the TPP could expose American taxpayers to billions of dollars in losses and dissuade the government from establishing or enforcing financial rules that impact foreign banks. The consequence would be to strip our regulators of the tools they need to prevent the next crisis.
Market Access
We are also concerned about including provisions in the TPP that would commit the American financial sector to “market access” rules similar to those stipulated by the World Trade Organization. Such rules could be interpreted by international panels to prohibit basic, non-discriminatory restrictions on predatory toxic financial products—such as particularly risky forms of derivatives—because those restrictions deny access to the U.S. financial markets. Such rules could also be interpreted to prohibit or curtail certain limitations on the size or the operations of financial firms, such as regulations to shield depositors’ money from high-risk trading.
To protect consumers and address sources of systemic financial risk, Congress must maintain the flexibility to impose restrictions on harmful products and on the conduct or structure of financial firms. We would oppose including provisions in the TPP that would limit that flexibility.
Capital Controls
We also would oppose the inclusion of terms in the TPP that could limit the ability of the government to use capital controls. The International Monetary Fund and leading economists have endorsed capital controls as legitimate policy tools for preventing and mitigating financial crises. If the TPP were to include provisions from past pacts that required unrestricted capital transfers, it could limit Congress’ prerogative to enact not only capital controls, but basic reform measures like a financial transaction tax.
Accordingly, we request that you answer the following questions by January 6, 2015:
(1)    What is USTR’s position on the inclusion of each of these provisions in the TPP?
(2)    If the USTR supports the inclusion of any of these provisions in the TPP, why does USTR believe that these provisions will help Congress and regulatory agencies prevent future financial crises?
In addition, we request that you provide us with all U.S. proposals and bracketed negotiating texts relating to the three provisions discussed in the letter. This includes, but is not limited to, the bracketed negotiating text for the TPP’s chapters on investment, financial services, dispute settlement, and exceptions, and any related U.S. proposals. Since leaders of TPP negotiating countries recently stated that TPP negotiations are nearing their conclusion, we request that you provide these materials by January 6, 2015.
Last year, Elizabeth Warren gave an impassioned speech against the confirmation of USTR Michael Froman because of the threat of backdoor financial deregulation in the TPP and the lack of transparency in the negotiating process. Froman, unsurprisingly, is a former Citigroup executive, having joined the firm with the rest of Bill Clinton's Treasury team. 
Froman was confirmed 93 to 4 to 1. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) all opposed his confirmation. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) voted present.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is likely to be a major part of Obama's agenda in his final two years, particularly because Congressional Republicans largely support it as well. Unfortunately, too many Democrats support such corporate-written trade deals as well.

Based on recent trade votes, only 17 members of the Democratic caucus are likely to join Warren in opposing the TPP:

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

That number needs to be a lot higher.

NYT/CBS Poll: Americans Support a Public Option

Over the past two years, the New York Times has been running a great series of articles on the outrageous cost of health care in the US, Paying Til It Hurts. If you haven't already read them, you should.

The NYT decided to complement its reporting with a survey about how Americans interact with the costs of the health care system.

The following two questions were of most interest to me:

(1) Would you favor or oppose a government-administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans?

(2) Would you favor or oppose a single-payer health care system, in which all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan that is financed by taxes?

Here were the results:


As you can see, a solid majority of Americans supported a public option for health insurance, which Democrats cravenly tossed aside during the health care debate.

Although I would have liked to have seen majority support for single payer as well, 43% is still a solid basis of support on which to build, and it likely includes a majority of self-identified Democrats and perhaps even a majority or plurality of Independents. I would be very interested to see the partisan breakdown on these questions.

Governor Pete Shumlin of Vermont unfortunately is giving up on the state's plan for a single payer system, but as this poll shows, there is a real desire among the public for such a system that would combine true universality, quality, and efficiency.

Roll Call Flashback: Which Democrats Voted to Entrench the Embargo on Cuba? (1996)

On March 12, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the so-called Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, more commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act (after its original sponsors Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Dan Burton).

The Helms-Burton Act was designed to further entrench the embargo on Cuba into US foreign policy.
Here are some of its provisions:
•    International Sanctions against the Cuban Government. Economic embargo, any non-U.S. company that deals economically with Cuba can be subjected to legal action and that company's leadership can be barred from entry into the United States. Sanctions may be applied to non-U.S. companies trading with Cuba.
•    United States opposition against Cuban membership in International Financial Institutions.
•    Exclusion of certain aliens from the United States, primarily senior officials or major stock holders, and their families, of companies that do business in Cuba on property expropriated from American citizens. To date, executives from Italy, Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom have been barred.
•    Provides power to the Legislative Branch to override an Executive Branch cancellation of the embargo.
•    Prohibits recognition of a transitional government in Cuba that includes Fidel or Raúl Castro.
•    Prohibits recognition of a Cuban government that has not provided compensation for U.S. certified claims against confiscated property, defined as non-residential property with an excess of $50,000 value in 1959.
The conference report for the Helms-Burton Act passed the Senate on March 5, 1996, by a vote of 74 to 22.  47 Republicans and 27 Democrats supported it. 18 Democrats and 4 Republicans opposed it. Who of these senators were still in the 113th Congress?

12 of the senators who voted YES (7R, 5D)

Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
5 of the senators who voted NO (5D):
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)

Secretary of State John Kerry was a NO vote (although he had voted YES on the original Senate version of the bill). VP Joe Biden was a YES vote. Outgoing governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was a NO vote.

The final vote in the House was 336 to 86.

230 Republicans and 106 Democrats voted for it. 80 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent voted against it.

Who was there in the 113th Congress that just finished?

36 House Republicans who voted YES:

Spencer Bachus (AL-06)
Don Young (AK)
Matt Salmon (AZ-05)
Buck McKeon (CA-25)
Ed Royce (CA-39)
Ken Calvert (CA-42)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Duncan Hunter (CA-50)
John Mica (FL-07)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)
Jack Kingston (GA-01)
Tom Latham (IA-04)
Ed Whitfield (KY-01)
Hal Rogers (KY-05)
Dave Camp (MI-04)
Fred Upton (MI-06)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Howard Coble (NC-06)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)
Pete King (NY-02)
Steve Chabot (OH-01)
John Boehner (OH-08)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
John Duncan (TN-02)
Sam Johnson (TX-03)
Ralph Hall (TX-04)
Joe Barton (TX-06)
Mac Thornberry (TX-13)
Steve Stockman (TX-36)
Bob Goodlatte (VA-06)
Frank Wolf (VA-10)
Doc Hastings (WA-04)
Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05)
Tom Petri (WI-06)

22 House Democrats who voted YES:

Corrine Brown (FL-05)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Pete Deutsch (FL-21)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Pete Visclosky (IN-01)
Steny Hoyer (MD-05)
Richard Neal (MA-01)
Sandy Levin (MI-09)
John Dingell (MI-12)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Frank Pallone (NJ-06)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Eliot Engel (NY-16)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

25 House Democrats who voted NO:

Ed Pastor (AZ-07)
George Miller (CA-11)
Nancy Pelosi (CA-12)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Henry Waxman (CA-33)
Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)
John Lewis (GA-05)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)
John Conyers (MI-13)
Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)
Jerry Nadler (NY-10)
Charlie Rangel (NY-13)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Eddie Johnson (TX-30)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)

Some former representatives have moved on to other careers.

There are three Republican governors who voted YES when in the House:

Nathan Deal (GA)
Sam Brownback (KS)
John Kasich (OH)

And there is one Democratic governor who voted NO when in the House: Neal Abercrombie (HI).

There are 14 senators who voted YES when in the House (8 R, 6 D):

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)

And 3 Senators who voted NO when n the House (2 D, 1 I):

Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Which 32 Senate Democrats Just Sold You Out to Give Wall Street a CRomnibus Christmas?

After a long day of voting yesterday, the Senate passed the so-called "CRomnibus," part continuing resolution, part omnibus, almost all bad.

The two provisions that have been criticized the most by Democrats are the rider that weakens campaign finance regulations by increasing the amount that an individual can donate to a party committee in a year from $32,400 to $324,000, thus giving rich people even more say than they already have, and the rider that guts Dodd-Frank and sets the stage for future bank bailouts. Elizabeth Warren has spoken eloquently and forcefully against the latter provision, which was, in fact, directly written by Citigroup.

However, the toxicity of the deal did not end there:
   But there’s so much more to the CRomnibus than just those two riders. Under the bill, trustees would be enabled to cut pension benefits to current retirees, reversing a 40-year bond with workers who earned their retirement packages. Voters in the District of Columbia who approved legalized marijuana will see their initiative vaporized, with local government prohibited from taxing or regulating the drug’s sale. Trucking companies can make roads less safe by giving their employees 82-hour work weeks without sufficient rest breaks. Pell grants for college students will be cut, with the money diverted to private student loan contractors who have actively harmed borrowers. Government financiers of overseas projects will be prevented from stopping funding for coal-fired power plants. Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be allowed to count “quality improvement” measures toward their mandatory health spending under Obamacare’s “medical loss ratio” provision, a windfall saving them millions of dollars.
I’m not done. The bill eliminates a bipartisan measure to end “backdoor” searches by the NSA of Americans’ private communications. It blocks the EPA from regulating certain water sources for farmers. It adds an exception to allow the U.S. to continue to fund Egypt’s military leadership. In a giveaway to potato growers, it reduces nutrition standards in school lunches and the Women, Infant and Children food aid program. It halts the listing of new endangered species. It stops the regulation of lead in hunting ammunition or fishing equipment. It limits contributions to the Green Climate Fund to compensate poor countries ravaged by climate change. I could go on. And even if the offending measures on derivatives and campaign finance were removed, all of that dreck would remain.
Despite the toxicity of the bill--and the fact that it will enable Republicans to demand more---President Obama, with the help of good friend Jamie Dimon, whipped Democrats in the House to vote for it, as Nancy Pelosi refused to support it herself. Most of Pelosi's caucus did side with her (139 members), but 57 voted against her to join the Republican majority in rolling back the regulatory state. 
 
After a long day of voting, the Senate passed the CRomnibus late yesterday night by a vote of 56 to 40.
32 members of the Democratic caucus and 24 Republicans supported it. 22 members of the Democratic caucus and 18 Republicans opposed it.

So who were the naughty 32?

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Angus King (I-ME)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
John Walsh (D-MT)
Mark Warner (D-VA)

Many of them were unsurprising, but I was particularly disappointed in Baldwin, Murphy, and Schatz, who are all freshmen with fairly progressive voting records so far.

And which 22 were nice?

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Of those 22, the nicest were Brown, Franken, Manchin, McCaskill, Sanders, and Warren, who also voted against cloture (i.e. allowing the bill to proceed). That vote was 77 to 19.

Every Democrat who lost re-election voted for it. They are probably angling for a future career in lobbying now.

To quote myself from the other day....

A Republican Senate aide told The Hill, "If liberal Democrats vote for this package it shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state." Granted, many of these Democrats are not "liberals." But the vote nevertheless shows that Republicans will be able to roll back various parts of the regulatory state (financial, environmental, labor, etc.) over the next two years by shoving such provisions into "must-pass" bills that Obama will sign and lobby Democrats to pass.

Welcome to the next two years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Which Senators that Opposed Arming the Syrian Rebels Voted for the NDAA that Does the Same Thing?

Back in September, Congress voted on arming the Syrian rebels. The C.R. that contained that provision passed the Senate 78 to 22. 10 Democrats and 12 Republicans opposed it.

Here are those 10 Democrats:

Mark Begich (D-AK)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

And here are those 12 Republicans:

John Barrasso (R-WY)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

That allocation of funding to the Syrian rebels--something that will get the US even more entrenched in a violent conflict in a region where the US has a history of making matters worse--was included in the FY 2015 NDAA.

As I noted last week,
The FY 2015 NDAA is filled with wonders of bipartisan legislating: prohibitions on ending unnecessary weapons programs, a maintenance of existing prohibitions on releasing/transferring those imprisoned by the US at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, more military aid for Ukraine, more military aid for the Syrian rebels, even more military aid for Israel than Obama asked for, requirements to keep nuclear weapons in "warm" status so that they can potentially be used, $63.7 billion for the Pentagon slush fund, and the sale of sacred Native American lands to a foreign mining company.
Julia Harte of the Center for Public Integrity has a must-read piece up at POLITICO on the slush fund that is the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations. Not that the rest of the Pentagon is a model of fiscal prudence. The agency has been unable to pass an audit and is only likely to be "audit-ready" in 2017, if even then. 
 
The NDAA passed the Senate easily as it always does. The final vote was 89 to 11.

Of those 11 votes, 5 came from the Democratic caucus:

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

And 6 came from the Republican caucus:

Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jim Risch (R-ID)

Here was Senator Gillibrand's statement on the vote:
“While there are priorities of mine that I have fought hard for in this bill, and I am proud they are in the final bill, I could not in good conscience vote in favor of this bill authorizing the arming of Syrian rebels,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I remain unconvinced this is the correct approach, and previous history suggests that arming Syrian rebels will be an ineffective solution with potentially serious unintended consequences in the long-term.”
Gillibrand pushed hard for a series of measures aimed at better assessing sexual assault in the military, in addition to protecting sexual assault survivors' mental health records to ensure that victims aren’t afraid to seek care because their records will likely be used in courts martial. Gillibrand also secured, among others, approval of a measure ensuring critical care for military children with developmental disabilities, a measure tracking the services’ progress on combat integration, and a measure directing the services to create cyber career tracks.
Here is Senator Sanders's statement on the vote:
“I am voting no because I have very serious concerns about our nation's bloated military budget and the misplaced national priorities this bill reflects.
“At a time when our national debt is more than $18 trillion and we spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue to end the waste and financial mismanagement that have plagued the Pentagon for years.
“The situation is so absurd that the military is unable to even account for how it spends all of its money. The non-partisan watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, said ‘serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense made its financial statements un-auditable.’
“I support a strong defense system for our country and a robust National Guard and Reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges. At a time when the country is struggling with huge unmet needs, however, it is unacceptable that the Defense Department continues to waste massive amounts of money.”
I commend both Gillibrand and Sanders for their votes and for the reasoning behind them. However, I am disappointed in the senators who voted against arming the Syrian rebels back in September only to support a bill now that does the same thing (and many other bad things as well).

Those senators include 7 Democrats:

Mark Begich (D-AK)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

And then 6 Republicans:

John Barrasso (R-WY)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

Chris Murphy at least addressed the inconsistency in his statement on the vote, but his defense only amounted to the fact that there's a lot of pork for defense contractors in Connecticut.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Welcome to the Next 2 Years: 57 Dems Vote to Give Wall Street a Cromnibus Christmas Present

Just now, the House passed the "CRomnibus"--part continuing resolution, part omnibus bill, part Pentagon slush fund, part austerity, and part rollback of the regulatory state.

Although they are far from the only toxic pieces of the deal (You can--and should--read a review of its parts here), negotiated by Democratic and Republican appropriators, the two pieces that have faced the most criticism from Democrats have been the part gutting campaign finance laws and the part promising to bail out the banks when they lose money from risky trades (a part that was, in fact, written almost entirely by Citigroup).

Although Nancy Pelosi has rhetorically opposed the deal and did vote NO on it, she did not whip against it. Some progressive Democrats, led by Maxine Waters, were whipping against it. But they had to face the opposing whipping team of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and their good friend Jamie Dimon.

Ultimately, Democrats, as one could--unfortunately--expect, provided the votes needed to pass the bill. The final vote was 219 to 206. 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for it. 139 Democrats and 67 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 57 Democrats who just sold you to to Wall Street:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Timothy Bishop (NY-01)
Bob Brady (PA-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
John Carney (DE-AL)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Joe Crowley (NY-14)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Susan Davis (CA-53)
John Delaney (MD-06)
John Dingell (MI-12)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Steven Horsford (NV-04)
Steny Hoyer (MD-05)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Daniel Lipinski (IL-03)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-02)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04)
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
George Miller (CA-11)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Ed Pastor (AZ-07)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
David Price (NC-04)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Brad Schneider (IL-10)
Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
David Scott (GA-13)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Brad Sherman (CA-30)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)

Henry Waxman (CA-33) apparently voted for it and then changed his vote at the last minute when it was no longer "needed."

Note that Steny Hoyer, Pelosi's #2, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC chairwoman, are both on the list.

Yesterday, a Republican Senate aide told The Hill, "If liberal Democrats vote for this package it shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state." Granted, many of these Democrats are not "liberals." But the vote nevertheless shows that Republicans will be able to roll back various parts of the regulatory state (financial, environmental, labor, etc.) over the next two years by shoving such provisions into "must-pass" bills that Obama will sign and lobby Democrats to pass.

Welcome to the next two years.

[Post-Script: The bill title is "An Act to require the Secretary of the Interior to assemble a team of experts to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the United States and Freely Associated States through the development of energy action plans aimed at promoting access to energy." They simply attached the $1.3 trillion appropriations bill as an amendment to a random bill the Senate already passed. Because Congress.]