Local leaders fly to DC to watch truly dysfunctional government at work
By Doug Porter
There’s only one story that counts today: the confrontation on Capitol Hill over passing a continuing budget resolution allowing the government to function for another 45 days.
Mini-Mayor Todd Gloria, along with members of the City Council and a Chamber of Commerce delegation headed by former Mayor Jerry Sanders are on the Hill this week “to advocate for policies vital to the region.” This trip has been on the books for some time—in fact it’s the same outing that former Mayor Bob Filner was uninvited from by Sanders back when reports of bad behavior surfaced.
A proposal by House Speaker John Boehner to push back the deadline for GOP demands to coincide with legislation allowing the debt ceiling to rise was rejected by Tea Party elements last week.
Although there are enough Republican votes in the House to pass a “clean”, (i.e., unencumbered by conditions tied to defunding the Affordable Healthcare Act) continuing budget resolution, the Speaker will be committing political suicide by even allowing such legislation to beconsidered.
There are, despite press accounts to the contrary, reasonable Republicans who don’t want to see a government shutdown. Their votes combined with Democratic members of Congress could pass the legislation needed to avoid a shut down.
Let’s take a tour around Pundit Land and see what’s being said.
Joshua Holland at BillMoyers.com takes on the “he said/she said” reporting that obscures the reality of what’s going on in DC:
It’s almost certain that we’ll see the government shut down on Tuesday. The last time that happened, in 1996, it cost $2.1 billion in today’s dollars. Breaching the debt limit would be far, far worse – nobody knows how bad, exactly, but everyone agrees that it would be really bad. Therisk of finding out has never been greater. This showdown is by far the most dangerous of a series of fiscal “crises” that have been contrived during the Obama presidency.
Beltway reporters who see their professed neutrality as a higher ground bear an enormous amount of responsibility for encouraging this perversion of democratic governance. With a few notable exceptions, the media have framed what Jonathan Chait called “a kind of quasi-impeachment” in typical he said-she said fashion, obscuring the fact that the basic norms that govern Congress have been thrown out the window by a small cabal of tea party-endorsed legislators from overwhelmingly Republican districts. The media treat unprecedented legislative extortion as typical partisan negotiations, and in doing so they normalize it.
But it’s not normal. Republicans are demanding that Democrats unwind their signature achievement – a piece of legislation that took 18 months to pass, survived a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election – in exchange for a stopgap budget resolution. On Saturday, they tacked on a provision that would limit access to contraceptives.
For those of you who are muttering something about “shared blame”, etc, consider this- for months, the House has refused to confer with the Senate over a dozen appropriations bills passed by both chambers in need of reconciliation.
The New York Times editorial board didn’t mince words:
Delaying the health law by a year, supported by all but two House Republicans, would prevent 11 million uninsured people from getting coverage in 2014 and raise premiums for those buying coverage in the individual insurance market. The real goal is not to delay but to destroy health reform by making it appear unworkable, in hopes that the public will not see the affordable premiums that will be available on the new health insurance exchanges where people can shop for plans starting Tuesday.
Repealing the tax on medical devices, supported by all House Republicans, would add $30 billion to the deficit over 10 years and reduce the revenues needed to pay for coverage for low-income people. This vote was nothing but a capitulation to the medical device industry and its lobbyists, though the industry stands to gain from a larger population of insured patients.
The House even included in its spending bill a provision allowing employers to opt out of covering women’s preventive health care, including contraception. When they should have been thinking about the damage to the economy from a shutdown, Republicans decided to go to the brink with this hugely unpopular right-wing demand.
A few hours before midnight is the worst possible time to reignite the culture wars, but House members are too delirious with ideology to care. John Culberson of Texas described his reaction at a meeting of Republican lawmakers: “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll,’ ” as if his partisan antics were somehow on a par with the ultimate sacrifices of ordinary citizens 12 years ago.
The Congressional letter to the Speaker concerning a tax on medical devices, which some pundits are suggesting might be an area of compromise, was written for the Teahadists by a lobbyist for that industry, according to Lee Fang at The Nation.
While repeal proponents claim the tax will hurt innovation and devastate American devicemakers, the reality is, medical device companies already pay very little in taxes and Obamacare will make up for the tax with an increase in demand. An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice finds most major medical device companies pay a very low effective tax rate, with firms like Abbot Laboratories making use of some 32 tax havens. Moreover, despite the claims of industry lobbyists, the tax will not hamper American companies because it applies to imported devices as well.
Scott Peters Says Repeal the Device Tax
Congressman Scott Peters sent out a press release saying that, while he was against shutting down the government, he wanted everybody to know he was willing to leave a $30 billion dollar hole in funding healthcare reform by repealing the medical device tax.
“I voted for the amendment to repeal the medical device tax because I strongly support its repeal. This excise tax hinders innovation in health care that leads to cost savings in the long run and hurts a significant sector of San Diego‘s economy. I would much prefer if we would be able to vote for this repeal separate from the continuing resolution. Attaching amendments that threaten the shutdown ofAmerica‘s government is a lousy way to pass good laws. I’ll continue to fight to keep America at work and to support a bipartisan plan to fix pieces of the ACA that need fixing, including the repeal of this nonsensical tax.”
Former President Bill Clinton made the rounds yesterday, telling ABC News President Barack Obama shouldn’t allow any changes to Obamacare in exchange for House Republicans raising the debt ceiling.
“There’s nothing to negotiate with. He shouldn’t delay the health care bill. It’s the law and we’re opening the enrollment on October 1. We’re ready,” Clinton said on This Week. “They’re in better shape now than the country was to implement President Bush’s drug program, which everybody’s forgotten. Go back and look at the polls, even more unpopular than health care reform is now.”
“So I think that’s a non-starter,” Clinton said.
DeMaio Backs Tea Party Shutdown
GOP Congressional candidate issued a press release Thursday afternoon, trying to seem “reasonable” about the impending government shutdown and hoping to shift the “blame” on Congressman Scott Peters. Using his usual mealy mouthed approach, any mention of the Affordable Health Care Act was omitted by DeMaio in favor of calling for “reform of wasteful spending.”
Via Dave Rice at the San Diego Reader:
“Hey – We just learned that Scott Peters is backing a permanent rule for “automatic” increases in the debt limit. Yes, he wants it to be “automatic.”
On top of that, Peters sent a letter to Barack Obama urging him to reject any conditions for reforming wasteful spending as part of a larger compromise package for addressing our ballooning debt.”
According to the website PoliticiFact, the debt ceiling was raised seven times under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, mostly without significant public debate. The Reagan administration raised the cap 18 times. This increase would be the fourth on Obama’s watch.
Notes on the Mayor’s Race
The playing field, as far as money is concerned, just got a whole lot more level for Democratic candidate David Alvarez. He’s trailed badly in the big money donor sweepstakes, raising a paltry $38,000, according to inewsource, as opposed to $129,00 for Nathan Fletcher and $244,500 for Kevin Faulconer.
According to Dorian Hargrove at The Reader:
San Diego‘s unions are united behind councilmember David Alvarez and are putting up major cash as a sign of their support.
In the past nine days alone, labor unions representing government employees, service industry workers, and electricians, as well as the local AFL-CIO contingent, have thrown $560,000 into pro-Alvarez campaign committee, Working Families for a Better San Diego.
A good portion of the pot of cash, according to a September 28 filing, has already been spent on polling and television air time, some of those ads played on the local Fox affiliate during Sunday’s Chargers game.
I saw the pro-Alvarez TV ad during the football game (Did I tell you that my other favorite football team is anybody playing Dallas?). It was positive, seeming to stress building name identification and a sense of integrity for Alvarez.
And stressing the positive is what I’m hearing about campaign mailers from various candidates. But it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the barrel.
Nasty Emails About Alvarez and Other Conspiracies
In addition to the official campaigns and the ‘support committees’ there’s also the grapevine campaigning that goes on unseen in the news media but very real in thousands of email inboxes and Facebook postings.
On the Democratic side, the grapevine campaigning consists of various conspiracy theorists touting their visions, some of which are left over from the dying days of the Filner administration.
They came out of the woodwork on various platforms to support the theory that candidate Alvarez had some personal involvement in denying Mike Aguirre and Bruce Coons seats on the panel at last Friday’s Spirit of the Barrio luncheon and debate.
The facts that the organizer for the debate, the Family Heath Center’s Ben Avey, is a life long Republican, that the Spirit of the Barrio luncheons are regular (5x a year) fundraising events and that these events have been ongoing since 1986 weren’t enough to dissuade the tin foil hat set.
On the right side of the political divide SDRostra has published (and denounced) an email making the rounds from nativist Jeff Schwilk. Here’s the header: Is David Alvarez an Illegal Alien Anchor Baby/Dual Citizen of Mexico? (SD Mayor’s Race)
The response from SDRostra included:
I know conservatives and the Republican Party recognize this ugliness for what it is.
Next will be allegations Alvarez was born in Kenya.
How’s a Not-Blessed-by-the-Money Mayoral Candidate Going to Catch a Break?
The folks with Coons and the Aguirre campaigns do have a point when they complain about being excluded from forums and debates. And there are serious players on the local scene openly suggesting they be excluded from coverage.
After spending the weekend drafting the starting salvo for the upcoming San Diego Free Press Special Election Voters’ Guide, I can say with some assurance that some candidates are indeed minor. But both Coons and Aguirre have demonstrated a grasp of the issues facing the city and have some concept of what’s involved with the job of being mayor. They deserve to be heard.
SD Free Press will be covering all 11 candidates starting later this week, starting with basic profiles. We’ll offer a portal where all our stories on this election, plus significant stories from other media outlets, can be accessed by voters interested in learning more about the candidates. And yes, we’ll get around to telling you what we think of it all.
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrain, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: email@example.com
On This Day: 1927 – George Herman “Babe” Ruth hit his 60th homerun of the season. He broke his own record with the homerun. The record stood until 1961 when Roger Maris broke the record. 1962 – James Meredith succeeded in registering at the University of Mississippi. It was his fourth attempt to register. 1989 – Neil Young appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and performed “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
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