Friday, July 25, 2014

GOP Votes to Block Immigrant Families from Getting the Child Tax Credit. Which 25 Dems Joined Them?

Continuing its piecemeal approach to passing tax extenders, the House voted today to extend the Child Tax Credit--and to make it more regressive.

The GOP bill increases the Child Tax Credit for higher-income taxpayers and reduces it for lower-income taxpayers. It also includes a provision designed to prevent immigrant families from getting access to the credit:
Currently, the Child Tax Credit offers a $1,000 credit for each child under age 17 - which begins to phase out for unmarried individuals at $75,000 and married couples at $110,000. This bill would modify the credit, allowing married taxpayers with higher incomes to claim its benefit, by increasing the income amount at which it phases out from $110,000 to $150,000 for married couples (but leaving the $75,000 threshold for unmarried filers unchanged) and indexing the $1,000 credit and income thresholds to inflation.

While its changes are permanent, the bill fails to extend the refundable portion of the current Child Tax Credit, passed as part of the Recovery Act and extended only through 2017 in the “fiscal cliff deal,” which is directed specifically toward lower income taxpayers. The net effect is to reduce the Child Tax Credit for low income taxpayers while increasing it for higher income taxpayers.
Additionally, after the bill was reported out of committee on a partisan vote, Republicans added a misguided provision that would require the Social Security Number of a filer be disclosed in order to claim the refundable portion of the credit – making it impossible for immigrant parents who file federal taxes using Taxpayer Identification Numbers to benefit from the credit even in cases where their children have a Social Security Number.
The Democratic leadership urged its members to vote no both because of these changes and because of their rejection of the piecemeal approach to tax extenders. 
 
The White House has also threatened to veto it:
"H.R. 4935 would immediately eliminate the Child Tax Credit for millions of American children whose parents immigrated to this country, including U.S. citizen children and 'Dreamers,' and would push many of these children into or deeper into poverty."
However, that didn't stop some Democrats from voting for it. 
 
It passed 237 to 173. 212 Republicans and 25 Democrats voted for it. 168 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against it.

Here are the 25 Democrats:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Kysrten Sinema (AZ-09)

The five Republicans who voted against it were Jeff Denham (CA-10), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Walter Jones (NC-03), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (IL-27), and David Valadao (CA-21). I cannot speak to Jones's reasoning, but the other four are in districts with large Latino populations.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CNN/ORC Poll Shows Divide Between Democratic Voters and Democratic Pols on Israel

On Friday, the Senate passed a resolution offering its unwavering, unquestioning support for Israel's attack on Gaza by unanimous consent.

To be clear, "unanimous consent," technically speaking, is not the same as a 100 to 0 vote. There was no recorded vote. No senator had a give an aye or a nay. What it means, then, is that no one who was present objected.

41 members of the Democratic caucus openly supported the resolution: the 40 Democratic co-sponsors plus Harry Reid, without whose support it could not have gotten a vote. With the other 14, all we can say is that they "did not object"--whether that implies support or cowardice we do not know, although neither is admirable.

The consensus around Israel among Democratic politicians, however, is not one also found among Democratic voters.

CNN/ORC International just released a poll about American opinions about Israel's current attack on the Gaza strip. As one would expect, the numbers overall look very favorable to Israel. However, the top lines are not the most interesting part (they never are).

The poll showed that Democrats were split down the middle, something not reflected by the lopsided support within the Democratic caucus.

When asked about whether their opinion of Israel was favorable or unfavorable, 49% of Democrats said mostly/somewhat favorable, and 48% said mostly/somewhat unfavorable. That's margin of error. That contrasts sharply with the 63% - 34% (+29) favorability with Independents and 67% - 31% (+36) with Republicans.

When asked whether Israel was "justified or unjustified in taking military action against Hamas and the Palestinians in the area known as Gaza," 45% of Democrats said it was justified, and 42% said it was unjustified. Again, margin of error. This contrasts with 56% - 36% (+20) among Independents and 73% - 19% (+54) among Republicans.

When asked whether the "amount of military force that Israel has used in Gaza has been too much, too little, or about right," 51% of Democrats said "too much." 35% said "about right, and 6% said "too little." Among Independents, 38% said "too much," 16% said "too little," and 40% said "about right." Among Republicans, only 24% said "too much," with 15% saying "too little" and 57% saying "about right."

What Ever Happened to the "Gaza 54"?

In January 2010, a group of 54 House Democrats, later called the "Gaza 54," sent a letter to President Obama urging him to work to end Israel's siege on Gaza.

Here is the text of that letter:
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your ongoing work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for your commitment of $300 million in U.S. aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip. We write to you with great concern about the ongoing crisis in Gaza.
The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ coup, and particularly following Operation Cast Lead. We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks. We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.
The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering, and we ask that you advocate for immediate improvements for Gaza in the following areas:
    Movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists, and those with family concerns, into and out of Gaza;
    Access to clean water, including water infrastructure materials,
    Access to plentiful and varied food and agricultural materials;
    Access to medicine and health care products and suppliers;
    Access to sanitation supplies, including sanitation infrastructure materials;
    Access to construction materials for repairs and rebuilding;
    Access to fuel;
    Access to spare parts;
    Prompt passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods; and
    Publication and review of the list of items prohibited to the people of Gaza.

Winter is arriving and the needs of the people grow ever more pressing. For example, the ban on building materials is preventing the reconstruction of thousands of innocent families’ damaged homes. There is also a concern that unrepaired sewage treatment plants will overflow and damage surrounding property and water resources.
Despite ad hoc easing of the blockade, there has been no significant improvement in the quantity and scope of goods allowed into Gaza. Both the number of trucks entering Gaza per month and the number of days the crossings have been open have declined since March. This crisis has devastated livelihoods, entrenched a poverty rate of over 70%, increased dependence on erratic international aid, allowed the deterioration of public infrastructure, and led to the marked decline of the accessibility of essential services.
The humanitarian and political consequences of a continued near-blockade would be disastrous. Easing the blockade on Gaza will not only improve the conditions on the ground for Gaza’s civilian population, but will also undermine the tunnel economy which has strengthened Hamas. Under current conditions, our aid remains little more than an unrealized pledge. Most importantly, lifting these restrictions will give civilians in Gaza a tangible sense that diplomacy can be an effective tool for bettering their conditions.

Your Administration’s overarching Middle East peace efforts will benefit Israel, the Palestinians, and the entire region. The people of Gaza, along with all the peoples of the region, must see that the United States is dedicated to addressing the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel and to ensuring that the legitimate needs of the Palestinian population are met.
Of the 54 signers, 37 of them are still in Congress. 
 
Arizona
Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03)

California
Lois Capps (CA-24)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Bob Filner (CA-51) [Ran for mayor; seat now held by Juan Vargas]
Michael Honda (CA-17)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
George Miller (CA-11)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-46)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Pete Stark (CA-15) [Lost re-election; seat now held by Eric Swalwell]
Diane Watson (CA-33) [Retired; seat now held by Karen Bass (CA-37)]
Lynn Woolsey (CA-06) [Retired; seat now held by Jared Huffman (CA-02)]

Connecticut
Jim Himes (CT-04)

Indiana
Andre Carson (IN-07)

Iowa
Bruce Braley (IA-01)

Kentucky
John Yarmuth (KY-03)

Maryland
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)

Massachusetts
Michael Capuano (MA-07)
William Delahunt (MA-10) [Retired; seat now held by William Keating (MA-09)]
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
John Olver (MA-01) [no direct successor because of redistricting]
John Tierney (MA-06)

Michigan
John Conyers (MI-13)
John Dingell (MI-12)
Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI-13) [Lost re-election to Hansen Clarke; no direct successor because of redistricting]
 
Minnesota
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Betty McCollum (MN-04)
James Oberstar (MN-08) [Lost re-election; seat now held by Rick Nolan]

New Jersey
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)
Donald Payne, Sr. (NJ-10) [Died; seat now held by Donald Payne, Jr.]

New York
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22) [Seat lost to redistricting]
Eric Massa (NY-29) [Resigned; seat now held by Tom Reed (NY-23)]
Paul Tonko (NY-20)

North Carolina

David Price (NC-03)

Ohio

Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15) [Drawn out of her district]

Oregon
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Peter DeFazio (OR-04)

Pennsylvania
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Joe Sestak (PA-07) [Ran for Senate; seat now held by Pat Meehan]

Vermont

Peter Welch (VT-AL)

Virginia
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Glenn Nye (VA-02) [Lost re-election; seat now held by Scott Rigell]

Washington
Brian Baird (WA-03) [Retired; Seat now held by Jaime Herrera Beutler]
Jay Inslee (WA-01) [Now governor; seat now held by Suzan DelBene]
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Adam Smith (WA-09)

West Virginia
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin [Now senator; seat now held by Mark Pocan]
Gwen Moore (WI-04)

*
To show the contrast that just a few years can make, Keith Ellison's letter urging the administration to find a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestine had only six signers. Four of the six were part of the "Gaza 54": John Conyers (MI-13), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Jim  Moran (VA-08).

Hank Johnson (GA-04) signed this letter although he had not been part of the "54."

Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) is a freshman.

Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Mr. President and Secretary Kerry:
We write to urge the administration and the State Department to redouble your efforts to urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to come to a cease-fire agreement.  The United States can help save Israeli and Palestinian lives by using all diplomatic leverage to work vigorously with U.S. allies to urge for an end to the violence.  Media reports indicate that the parties were close to a cease-fire, however no agreement has been reached and violence persists.  We commend efforts to facilitate a cease-fire and support Israel’s willingness to agree to the terms of the agreement.  We urge the Administration to continue its efforts to facilitate an agreement that will engage and garner support from all parties involved in this cycle of violence.
As you know, this week the first Israeli citizen was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza, and many are living in fear and being forced to routinely seek shelter while Hamas continues indiscriminately launching thousands of rockets into Israel. Since July, 226 Palestinians have been killed—a majority of them civilians.  More than 20,000 have been displaced from their homes and lack food, water and medicine.  Given that Gaza is densely populated and children make up fifty percent of the population, many children have been injured and killed.
Past experience indicates that the current conflict will likely end with a new cease-fire.  Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East.  The United States government, together with international partners, must redouble our efforts to urge all parties to avoid further loss of life on both sides by coming to a cease-fire.
The relative calm that existed during Secretary Kerry’s recent diplomatic talks between Israel and Palestine shows that engaging in dialogue is the first step towards stopping the violence.  Additional diplomacy is necessary to save lives and create lasting peace.  Finally, the current confrontation proves that a final status agreement in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security is urgent and necessary.
Thank you and Secretary Kerry for your recent efforts in this regard.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Which 20 Democrats Voted to Gut DC's Gun Laws?

The amendment process for the 2015 House financial services appropriations bill provided an excellent example of the contempt Congress has for DC's self-government.

Rep. Tom Massie (KY-04) offered an amendment to gut the District's gun laws. Specifically, his amendment would prohibit the use of funds by any authority of the government of the District of Columbia to enforce any provision of the Firearms Registration Amendment Act of 2008, the Inoperable Pistol Amendment Act of 2008, the Firearms Amendment Act of 2012, or the Administrative Disposition for Weapons Offenses Amendment Act of 2012. Massie doesn't believe that the District has the right to pass its own laws, you see. And his amendment would make the gun laws in the District even weaker than they are in his home district in Kentucky.

Well, unsurprisingly, it passed, on a vote of 241 to 181.  221 Republicans and 20 Democrats voted for it. 177 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted against it.

The four Republican opponents came from the Philadelphia metro area---Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08) of Bucks County and Pat Meehan (PA-07) of Delaware County--and the New York metro area---Michael Grimm (NY-11) of Staten Island and Pete King (NY-02) of Long Island.

Who were the 20 Democrats?

John Barrow (GA-12)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
John Dingell (MI-12)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Mike Michaud (ME-02)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Alan Grayson Got the House to Vote on a $10.10 Minimum Wage. Which Democrats Voted No?

On Tuesday, Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09) offered an amendment to the 2015 financial services appropriations bill that would require the federal government to pay employees at least $10.10 an hour.

It received a vote yesterday, and--unsurprisingly--it failed.

The House voted it down 230 to 193.

What was disappointing was that 5 Democrats joined the full Republican caucus in voting against it.

Who were the 5 Democrats?

John Barrow (GA-12)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

John Barrow and Nick Rahall are both DCCC Frontline candidates.

Jim Matheson is retiring, and I'm sure he'll get a great job as a lobbyist.

Which Democrats Joined the House GOP in Casting Votes against their Favorite Whipping Boy, the IRS?

Yesterday, the House passed its financial services appropriations bill, which contained steep cuts to the IRS. The bill originally cut $341 million out of the IRS budget, but with all amendments included, it cut an additional $1 billion.

It passed on largely partisan lines: 228 to 195.

Only 6 Democrats voted for it:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

And only 4 Republicans voted against it:

Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Raul Labrador (ID-01)
Joe Pitts (PA-16)

I want to highlight some of the amendments. First, I want to look at the IRS gimmick votes, and then in a later post, I'll look at some other votes.

As should surprise no one, House Republicans took the opportunity to cast votes against the IRS. And, unsurprisingly as well, a number of Democrats joined them.

Paul Gosar (AZ-04) offered an amendment to prohibit the use of funds to pay performance awards to employees of the IRS.

It passed 282 to 138. 225 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for it. 138 Democrats voted against it. 1 Democrat—Joaquin Castro (TX-20)—voted present.

Here are the 57 Democrats:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Timothy Bishop (NY-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Jim Costa (CA-16)  
Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Denny Heck (WA-10)
Brian Higgins (NY-26)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Derek Kilmer (WA-06)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Ann Kuster (NH-02)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
Mike Michaud (ME-02)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Gary Peters (MI-09)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
John Tierney (MA-06)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
John Yarmuth (KY-03)

Ron DeSantis (FL-06) offered an amendment to prohibit the IRS from using funds for conferences.
It passed 264 to 157.

222 Republicans and 42 Democrats voted for it. 154 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted against it.
The 3 Republicans were Mark Amodei (NV-02), Jason Chaffetz (UT-03), and Joe Heck (NV-03). I assume that there is a conference site in their area.

Here are the 42 Democrats:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Timothy Bishop (NY-01)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Matt Cartwright (CA-17)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Jim Costa (CA-16)  
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Brian Higgins (NY-26)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Ann Kuster (NH-02)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Gary Peters (MI-09)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Friday, July 11, 2014

34 Democrats Join House GOP to Pass More Business Tax Breaks

The House continued its piecemeal approach to tax extenders today by passing a bill to extend the bonus depreciation tax credit for businesses permanently.

The bill would add $287 billion to the deficit over the next ten years.

Republicans claimed that the tax credit would help create jobs, but Democratic critics scoffed at the idea, highlighting past studies from the Congressional Research Service:
But opponents -- primarily Democrats -- mocked the idea, pointing to Congressional Research Service reports that found the break was a weak stimulus to begin with, and that the stimulative effect is likely to fall even further if the break becomes permanent. "Even as a stimulus, the analysis shows that for every dollar that is invested we get 20 cents of growth," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee. "A fellow could go bankrupt with that kind of economics, and that's exactly what they would have the country doing and not meeting its other needs while funding something that doesn't work."
The House Democratic leadership urged members to vote NO, citing Republican hypocrisy on tax extenders:
This permanent tax extender comes on the heels of several other extenders that Republicans brought to the Floor without offsets that passed the House last month that would add over $230 billion to the deficit. The combination of this bill and the 13 other permanent tax cuts approved by Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee would add over $800 billion to the deficit over the next decade – more than 35 times the amount that it would cost to renew emergency unemployment insurance for the entire year. It is hypocritical of House Republicans - who have let emergency unemployment insurance expire for more than 3 million Americans, refused to provide a permanent fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) for Medicare payments to doctors, and failed to replace the irrational, across-the-board spending cuts imposed by the sequester all on arguments over offsets - to bring this bill to the Floor without paying for it.
The bill passed 258 to 160.

Only 2 Republicans voted against it: John Campbell (CA-35) and Walter Jones (NC-03).

34 Democrats bucked the party and voted for it:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Steven Horsford (NV-04)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Grace Meng (NY-06)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Gary Peters (MI-14)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Kysrten Sinema (AZ-09)
Albio Sires (NJ-13)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
Tim Walz (MN-01)