By Doug Porter
The Grinch was alive and well yesterday as the House of Representatives passed a compromise “CRomnibus.” The word is politi-speak for a combined continuing resolution (to keep funding the government) and omnibus (comprehensive budget) legislation.
A rebellion on both sides of the aisle nearly blocked passage of the bill. Conservatives wanted to make more of a statement about the President’s executive order on immigration. Progressives were steamed about language –actually written by lobbyists–rolling back financial industry reforms put into place following the 2009 economic collapse.
But there’s so much more to see here. In these days of Congressional gridlock and Obama derangement syndrome, a bi-partisan leadership group (House Republicans and Senate Democrats) deemed it necessary to drop a document bigger than War and Peace on Tuesday, expecting a vote in less than 72 hours.
What choice did Congress have? It was either vote “no” and shut down the government or accept what the congressional leadership and the White House deemed proper. Although the Senate hasn’t voted on the CRomnibus as I write this, it will pass.
The CRomnibus Wish List:
Here’s a sampling of what congress voted for. from National Priorities blog:
Spending Caps and Immigration
- The bill adheres to the Ryan-Murray spending caps negotiated during last year’s government shutdown, for a total of $1.1 trillion in federal spending.
- The bill funds most of the government through September 30, 2015 (the end of the fiscal year), but funds the Department of Homeland Security only through February 27, since lawmakers intend to return to the subject of immigration following President Obama’sexecutive order.
Military Spending, the F-35, and Military Pay Raises
- The bill provides $490.2 billion in base Pentagon spending. On top of that, it provides war funding (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) of another $64 billion, for a total of $554 billion in Pentagon spending.
- It includes a 1% military and civilian pay raise, which is lower than the 1.8% previously planned, and permits an increase in military prescription co-pays and a decrease in military housing allowances.
- The bill provides $5 billion for fighting ISIS, compared to $5.6 billion the President requested.
- While cutting military benefits, the bill includes a spending spree for defense contractors, including an additional $479 million to purchase four F-35s for the Air Force and Navy (two each) that the Pentagon didn’t request, as well as an additional three Littoral Combat Ships.
Surprises: Dodd-Frank and Campaign Contributions
- The bill includes a reform of the Dodd-Frank law which would remove some of the separation between financial derivatives and traditional bank accounts protected by FDIC. This would weaken protections that were supposed to help prevent another financial crisis like the one that spurred the Great Recession.
- There is a proposal to increase limits for personal contributions to political parties by ten times, from $32,400 to $324,000.
Native Americans, Medical Marijuana Advocates Get a Boost
Marijuana advocates lost one round and won two in the CRomnibus bill.
Despite 70% voter approval of an initiative legalizing pot in the nation’s capitol, there is no money for the DC government to implement any regulatory changes.
On the other hand…from UT-San Diego:
Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that have legalized the drug, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.
Some advocates said the announcement could open new markets across the country and give rise to a rich new business on reservations, not unlike the advent of casino gambling. Others said it was too early to tell; many tribes oppose legalization, and only a handful of tribes have expressed any interest in the marijuana business.
It’s unclear whether the policy would be welcomed by San Diego County’s 19 tribes, several of whom operate lucrative casinos and resorts. Those tribes might see little upside to branching off into a new industry that could be rife with potential problems.
US Attorney Laura Duffy will have to find something else to do other than holding press conferences ranting about one ounce of the killer weed worth $775 million seized by her office:
This one’s the biggie, from Drug Policy.org:
The final “must pass” federal spending bill that Congress will consider this week, also known as the “cromnibus,”and released by senior appropriators last night includes an amendment that prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it
Capitol Hill Staffers Join in Protests
Legislators in Washington may have been busy with the budget yesterday, but black congressional staffers and other Capitol employees took a break from it all to join the national wave of protests.
Cameras whirred as they stood silently on the House steps Thursday and raised their hands in the air to protest of the killing of unarmed black men by police.
From UT-San Diego:
They bowed their heads as Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black prayed, “Forgive us when we have failed to lift our voices for those who couldn’t speak or breathe for themselves” — emphasizing “breathe” in reference to Eric Garner, who died after a policeman grabbed him in a chokehold in New York.
“May we not forget that in our history injustice has often been maintained because good people failed to promptly act,” Black said, with well over 100 people standing behind him.
The demonstration was organized by the Congressional Black Associates and other groups representing minority employees of Congress to show support for protests around the country following the deaths of Garner and 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, in Ferguson, Mo.
Zapf Staffer’s Gaffe: “I Wanted to Shoot Them.”
No comment needed.
A staff member for San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf referred to demonstrators as “idiots” and said “I wanted to shoot them” after they protested police brutality at the city’s inauguration Wednesday morning.
The protesters rallied outside before the inauguration at Golden Hall in downtown San Diego and chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.” They then entered the building and lined up alongside the hall where they silently rotated between gestures of raising their arms up, putting their hands around their throats and staging a “die in” by lying down on the ground. The gestures are symbolic of a national movement spurred by recent police killings of unarmed black men.
While members of the public and news media waited near the front of the room to speak with Zapf after the ceremony, her community representative Shirley Owen called the protesters “f—— idiots with their hands up” and said “I wanted to shoot them.”
The story goes on to say Zapf later said she supported the protester’s First Amendment rights and any comment about the staffer’s remarks would not be forthcoming as city personnel rules prohibited public discussion of employee disciplinary matters.
UPDATE: Zapf issued a statement this afternoon indicating the staffer was suspended for two weeks without pay.
#ICan’tBreath Protest Saturday in Balboa Park
Are you interested in joining the growing ranks of demonstrators irritating people who think racism is a thing of the past? Well, you’re in luck.
The next San Diego protest that I am aware of is scheduled for Balboa Park (meeting at the fountain) on Saturday (starting at 10:30am), December 13th. This event is reportedly being organized in solidarity with a national protest march in Washington DC.
Did This Week’s City Council Follies Violate the Brown Act?
NBC7 reported last night on a “series of private, one-on-one meetings” taking place prior to the voting for selecting the president of the city council.
On Tuesday Councilwoman Sherri Lightner was elected president of the council, displacing incumbent Councilman Todd Gloria. Six of the nine council members were involved, in what appears (to me) to have amounted to GOP initiated rebuke of Gloria’s advocacy for several measures unpopular with the city’s business establishment.
It appears no official “quorum” of five was ever reached – which would constitute a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law.
They recounted separate meetings involving Marti Emerald and Gloria, Emerald and Lightner, Sherman and Lightner, Lori Zapf and Lightner, and David Alvarez and Lightner.
According to one aide, Lighter told Gloria last week that she was “going for it.”
Because the meetings appear to have involved discussions that would fall under the “Serial Meetings” section of the Brown Act, our findings were forwarded to the city attorney’s office for review.
Another Bad Day for SeaWorld
SeaWorld announced yesterday that CEO Jim Atchison is stepping down as head of the company. Chairman David D’Alessandro will take the helm on an interim basis starting in January. The entertainment company’s business has been tanking since release of the Blackfish documentary last year.
From the Washington Post:
For the nine months ended September 30, 2014, the company reported,revenue decreased 7.3%, “a result of a 4.7% decrease in attendance.” It blamed a variety of factors, including weather and the competitive environment. But while never mentioning the documentary, it acknowledged that negative publicity, amplified by social media and by a move in the California legislature to “restrict our ability to display certain animals” had hurt it.
Since the movie’s release, SeaWorld Entertainment’s share price has dropped nearly 44 percent to $16 per share. Its attendance shrank by 500,000 during this year’s third quarter, according to a SeaWorld statement. And it now has to deal with a deluge of animal activism, spearheaded by the Oceanic Preservation Society, several Change.org petitions and a slew of anti–SeaWorld websites.
Consumerist, which every year ranks the 32 most despised American companies, put SeaWorld in its final four this year – beside the likes of Wal-Mart, Comcast and Monsanto. Huffington Post’s co-founder Kenneth Lerer proclaimed “the end of SeaWorld.”
Play Ball! City May Bid on All Star Game
San Diego may not have enough money to fill potholes, fix sidewalks or support low income housing, but, hey, we’ve got big baseball dreams.
From UT San Diego:
City officials said Thursday that San Diego’s bid to host pro baseball’s All-Star Game in 2016 is a small investment that will lead to a big payoff.
The proposal, which the City Council is scheduled to consider on Monday, includes a maximum $1.5 million city contribution for police officers, firefighters and other services during the game and five days of related events that would take place throughout the city.
Hosting those events would generate $1 million in sales tax, $1.2 million in hotel taxes and an overall economic impact of $80 million, according to an analysis conducted by the city.
Remember those tax revenue promises, folks. They’ll deserve a revisiting in 2016.
On This Day:1792 – In Vienna, 22-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven received one of his first lessons in music composition from Franz Joseph Haydn. 1925 – The “Motel Inn,” the first motel in the world, opened in San Luis Obispo. 2000 – The Supreme Court found that the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election was unconstitutional. U.S. Vice President Al Gore conceded the election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush the next day.
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