Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exposing more GOP chicanery

The Dems seem to be on a roll this past week.  First, there was Rep. Charles Schumer (D-MD) calling out Gov. Scott Walker on his shenanigans regarding the public employees' bargaining rights being essential to balancing the WI state budget. Then, there was the "speechless" statement by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) which bluntly asked the GOP Reps where their "top priority" jobs bills are after 100 days in session. On Friday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) tore the Paul Ryan budget a new one:

(Video courtesy of ThinkProgress)

The guy mumbling and failing to directly answer the question posed is none other than the freshman GOP Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), who got into hot water when he answered the question why blacks voted for Democrats while he was Indiana's Secretary of State back in 2007.  In the video, Ellison pointed out that the budget plan recommended by the CPC, a.k.a. the "People's Budget", will turn from budget deficit to surplus in 2021. So, why was it so hard for Rokita to answer such a simple question? Because, according to the CBO's analysis of the alternative fiscal scenario, a.k.a. Paul Ryan's "Path to Poverty" plan, the budget will not turn to surplus until at least 2040! It was funny to see Ellison give Rokita only 5 seconds to answer the question, which would have been abundantly long for an answer of a year number, and when Rokita proceeded to ramble on about nothing, he took the floor back.  I mean, either the guy didn't read the CBO analysis report or he's just playing dumb.  It could be both, but I am assuming the latter because he would really have hated for Ryan to come TP his house.

The highlight of the day, however, has to come from a deftly crafted maneuver by the House Dems in voting for the 2012 budget.  Of course, we all know that the GOP will want the Ryan budget to pass.  In a typical attempt by the right wing to make the Ryan budget look more tame, many of the GOP Reps were going to vote "yes" for the more radical plan put forth by the Republican Study Committee. If this amendment had passed, it would replace Paul Ryan's budget plan for 2012.  For their ruse to work, however, they needed and were expecting all of the Democrats and some of the more "liberal" GOP Reps to vote no, thereby failing it.  The Paul Ryan budget would still be passed later on as they had planned, and the Reps who voted for the RSC budget can say that they tried to pass a more fiscally conservative bill but that they had no bipartisan support.

Unbeknownst to the House GOPs, five minutes before the amendment vote, the press office of House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sent e-mails onto blackberries telling the Dems to vote "present" instead of "no".  What this does is it makes their votes simply not count in the final tally.  In effect, the Dems were removing themselves from the equation, leaving the House Republicans to fight amongst themselves to see whether they would want to pass the Tea Party-favored RSC budget or Ryan's budget.  This was simply brilliant, and it caught the House GOPs completely off-guard.  I am sure when they started hearing all the "present" votes, they picked up on what was happening, but the problem was, many of them had already voted "yes".  Thus, some of the GOP Reps had to be goaded into changing their votes to "no" to make sure that the RSC budget plan does not get passed.  With a handful of House Dems still voting "no" while the rest voted "present", the bill failed by a margin of 119-136, with 119 Republicans voting "yes" and 120 Republicans voting "no".

This is truly a win-win situation for the Democrats.  If the amendment had passed, then it would look really bad to the general public for the GOP to pass such a radical plan.  Since it failed, however, it shows the GOP was just creating this puppet show just for the Teabaggers and never really had any real intention of passing the extreme bill.  Upon further inspection, we find out that only 119 of the 176 RSC Members voted to pass their own budget. I am curious to see how the members who voted "no" will answer to their Tea Party constituents about this vote.  In addition, it further highlights how divided the GOP House is, and truly, a divided house cannot stand.  We knew all along that the GOP never really cared about balancing the budget.  For crying out loud, in 2000 they had a budget surplus.  If they really cared about the budget then, wouldn't they have preserved that surplus as opposed to starting two unfunded wars and also the medicare prescriptions?  As we have been seeing more and more of these gaffes in recent days, I can only hope that this is the beginning of the end for a party that lies to get their corporatist, for-the-wealthy agenda passed with actual low regard to represent their middle-class constituents.

On a side note, here's a list of the Dem. Reps who still voted "no" (as opposed to "present") on the amendment:

1) Jason Altmire (D-PA)
2) John Barrow (D-GA)
3) Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
4) Bruce Braley (D-IA)
5) Joe Courtney (D-CT)
6) Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
7) Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
8) Dale Kildee (D-MI)
9) Dave Loebsack (D-IA)
10) Jim Matheson (D-UT)
11) Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
12) Chris Murphy (D-CT)
13) Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
14) Heath Shuler (D-NC)
15) Adam Smith (D-WA)
16) Mel Walt (D-NC)

If you'd like to read more about the game plan by Hoyer, head here.  For a video of the pandemonium that ensued while the votes were being tallied, scroll down to the end of this HP post.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Walker, Wisconsin Liar

On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took a trip to the Capitol Hill to answer a few basic questions before the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform regarding his decision to strip the collective bargaining powers of public state employees, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) doing the grilling.  Here's a short transcript of the juicy part courtesy of ThinkProgress:
KUCINICH: Let me ask you about some of the specific provisions in your proposals to strip collective bargaining rights. First, your proposal would require unions to hold annual votes to continue representing their own members. Can you please explain to me and members of this committee how much money this provision saves for your state budget?
WALKER: That and a number of other provisions we put in because if you’re going to ask, if you’re going to put in place a change like that, we wanted to make sure we protected the workers of our state, so they got value out of that. [...]
KUCINICH: Would you answer the question? How much money does it save, Governor?
WALKER: It doesn’t save any. [...]
KUCINICH: I want to ask about another one of your proposals. Under your plan you would prohibit paying union member dues from their paychecks. How much money would this provision save your state budget?
WALKER: It would save employees a thousand dollars a year they could use to pay for their pensions and health care contributions.
KUCINICH: Governor, it wouldn’t save anything. [Goes on to present letter from LRF and is denied unanimous request for it to be placed in the public record by Issa]

After a lot of rambling trying to find the right words to avoid answering Kucinich's first question, Walker finally admitted that it actually does not save the state any money.  Moving on, Kucinich then asks another question about union dues. Clearly grasping at straws, Walker pulls a number out of thin air ($1000) and touts that amount as yearly savings for an employee.  Enough is enough, and that's when Kucinich had to call bull and reveal the card in his hand.  Well, actually it wasn't a card but a letter from the fiscal bureau of WI (the equivalent of the CBO at the state level in WI).  In the letter, it states that the items listed are of a non-fiscal nature.  At the end of the document, there are these items:

• Public Employee Collective Bargaining Modifications (Page 36, #1)
• Repeal Collective Bargaining Rights for University of Wisconsin System Faculty and Academic Staff (Page 44, #2)

What this is saying, to put it plainly, is that the public employees' collective bargaining modifications in the legislation passed has nothing to do with balancing the state budget.  Truly, this is a moment to remember.  After so many months of viciously touting that the public employees' collective bargaining power was such a key element to helping the state balance the budget, this report clearly blows that theory out of the water.

What, then, is the reason for Walker's adamant push to end collective bargaining for public employees?  Of course, many of us progressives already know the answer: it's just to simply weaken the voice and power of the middle class so that he can more easily push through the right-wing corporatist agenda.  By using the budget as a ploy to hold hostage the public employees' right to bargain, Walker pulled a fast one on the people of Wisconsin.  I am glad that Kucinich called him out today and was able to eventually put the letter from the fiscal bureau on the record for the hearing. 

It is always great to see untruths debunked, especially with hard evidence such as this.  The GOP has been giving the public a big show of smoke and mirrors, using insidious lies to confuse and spread FUD so that they can use that as a tool to implement their own agenda.  I hope this is a coming trend of calling out the GOP, just as President Barack Obama called out Paul Ryan's "Highway to Hell" budget plan on Wednesday during his smackdown speech.  In addition to this one, there was also another calling out moment today on Capitol Hill when Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) called out the GOP House members for not having done anything about jobs after 100 days, even though they promised that that was going to be their priority.  These untruths must be revealed and its debunking widely circulated so that the public will see what a mistake it was for them to hand back the keys to the ones who helped put us into this mess in the first place.

Below is the full video of the exchange between Rep. Kucinich and Gov. Walker: