Tag Archives: Congress

Budget Control Act of 2011

It’s hard to not be cynical on this plan. Instead of putting my spin on this plan, it is now your turn. We have great thinkers who read this blog. Let’s here from you. Here is the .pdf legislative language (all 74 pages). Have a read, tell us who is the big loser politically is and give us your comments.

The Constitutionality of the McConnell Debt Ceiling Plan

Isn’t it odd that the in the House of Representatives, the Republicans added a rule to read parts of the Constitution that justifies any new bill while the Senate Republicans want to defy the Constitution? Senator Mitch McConnell wants to allow the President to propose an increase to the debt limit in which Congress will vote on its “approval”. Unlike a bill that would come out of Congress and allow the President to sign it and therefore become law, the McConnell plan allows the President to veto a Congressional vote that is not in favor of an approval or “Disapproves” the proposal. According to the McConnell plan, this veto would then allow the president on his own power to raise the debt ceiling.

This is wrong on multiple levels. Politically, it is cowardly to see the desire to on one hand allow the debt ceiling to be raised, but on the other hand have a majority vote against it for political cover. Politics, however, has not always been the most noble profession and this is no exception. The big problem is with the Constitutionality of this this move. The framers of the Constitution were very clear about which branch has the ability to raise debt.  It is spelled out in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that the branch with such power is the Legislature:

Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

The McConnell Plan would transfer this power, albeit with a time limit, to the Executive Branch by enabling the President to usurp Legislative power and rule of law with the use of a Veto. The Constitution is very clear about putting the purse strings of the United States in the hands of the Legislature.  They understood that the body to authorize spending must be separate from the body that actually spends. The concentration of both authorizing and spending power in one person’s hands is too great.

James Madison warned of this in The Federalist Papers #47. He wrote:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.

Madison warns us of placing powers in the hands of one branch that are not subject to the checks and balances of the others. Congress should not be able to circumvent the Constitution and cede power to the President (even if they wish to). It is odd that the very party that wants to see the President ousted from office in the next election is so willing to hand over their own power to the very same President.

Our only hope, if this plan becomes law, is that the Supreme Court in short order declares this plan to be un-Constitutional. However, that in and of itself creates a domino effect of issues surrounding any of the debt related activities that the President under the plan.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

If the Supreme Court were to rule on the plan as un-Constitutional, what would happen to any debts taken under that plan? Is there a Constitutional crisis when two sections of the Constitution would conflict?

Given the limited time before the United States has to raise the debt ceiling and the Constitutional issues with the McConnell plan, I have to question the judgement of the very people considering it on both sides.

America on the Precipice of Government Shutdown and Nobody Cares

Last night in the darkness, the Senate and the House overwhelmingly approved a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for a couple more days.  Until Tuesday to be exact.

Why did they do this?  Because if they had not, our federal government would have shut down at midnight tonight.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Because it’s not the lead on any news network or website.  I had to google it after looking for the past 2 days for a legitimate headline talking about the fact that Congress has had an entire year to pass a budget and still has not done so.

Hard core conservatives are railing against this new Omnibus Bill.  $1.1 Trillion, and over 6000 earmarked projects to boost the election prospects of the tired old souls who managed to stay in office through November’s carnage.

This continuing resolution for 3 days is a bad Omen from my perspective for several reasons.

  1. Validation of total incompetence
  2. It means that the Republicans who were saying “no way in he$$” to this bill 24 hours ago, might see a way to pass it.
  3. By not killing it, the conservatives are already beginning to sell out after cashing in on a Nov victory.
  4. By trying to get this done, it means the White House is completely ignoring the message they were sent this last election cycle.

What we can look forward to?  More compromise.  The type of compromise that gives Republicans and Democrats what they each want, and leaves us holding the bag and the bill for more rampant spending.

Tuesday is a world away in political terms, it’s going to be an interesting 72 hours.

Guest Blogger Jeff

Tax Cuts Win Passage, Debt Increases Another $850 billion

I like tax cuts. I really do. It feels like in general, we can spend our money better than the government. That said, this latest “bipartisan” deal to extend the Bush tax rates and unemployment makes me wonder what was actually compromised? Both parties got what they wanted. Nobody took a hair cut… nobody. Well that’s not completely true. The deficit took one on the chin to the tune of $850 billion. Why couldn’t we pay for this $850 billion in some way? Even a plan that would have payed for it over 5, 10 or even 15 years would show that our government is serious about the debt. Instead, we have more of the same… spend and cut taxes with borrowed money.

Is anyone else concerned?


Episode 106 – Lame Duck Session – Taxes, Treaties…or just Lame?

This show covers a lot of ground…maybe more than Congress has done in its Lame Duck Session! The show starts with an interesting discussion on the Bush Tax Cuts and the rich. Jeff points out that the wealthiest Americans used to pay taxes at a 94% rate, cut down to 77% under Lyndon Johnson, and then to 28% under Ronald Reagan. With Congress not cutting spending, and loopholes and breaks geared to special interests and the wealthy, Jeff and Glenn wonder how the tax cuts for the Lower and Middle Class Americans, and Small Businesses, will be paid for if not through higher taxes on the wealthy? Glenn points out the Warren Buffet came out this week and asked to pay higher taxes. Jeff pointed out that a study showed that in 2007, the 400 wealthiest Americans, due to tax breaks and loopholes, had an effective tax rate of 16.5%. They then talk about the prospects for the Start Treaty, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, now that the Pentagon has released a comprehensive 9-month study showing that the vast majority of those serving in the military do not care about gays serving along side them. They close the show with an interesting discussion of the WikiLeaks issue, pointing out that the one thing not being discussed enough is the actual technological breach of security — and how something like this can be prevented from happening again.

Best Friends. Vast Experience. Engaging political discussion without the fighting…and with a few laughs. It’s PoliTalk, your weekly political podcast.

You can get the PoliTalk Podcast on  iTunes and Zune

Congressman Markey Doesn’t Live Here Anymore?

Ed Markey has been the Congressman from District 7 in Massachusetts for 34 years. His listed residence is in the district. His opponent in the race, Gerry Dembrowski, posted this video. It’s a humorous look at a painful reality in politics in which incumbent’s “home” often times becomes the Washington DC area.

Please fill in the blank… “The reason why we don’t have term limits is ______________________.”

Double Dip, Let ‘er Rip, Have a Shot on Me…

By some accounts, and in my book one account is pretty much enough, we’re settling into a double dip recession. In a previous show, my co-host Glenn argued against this notion, saying that to be in the second dip we needed to definitively come out of the first dip. Okay, well said. But I had seen tangible signs of economic progress – the GDP nudging up steadily, unemployment leveling off, the housing market rebounding, retail sales and manufacturing on the mend. Now it feels like we’re back in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon and we’re Wily E Coyote about to take the plunge off the cliff. Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom, but that’s almost beside the point.

While we hang in this dark and scary place, emnity oozes from the pursed lips of the powerful, perceptually positioned as outsiders forcefully taking over a paralyzed system. The rhetoric of revolt and confrontation stirs up anger and divisiveness, and whips the appropriately narrowly defined electorate into action, resulting in a record few number of really angry people at the polls, and the status quo in question.

Meanwhile back at the office, people are hurting — people who know no politics, political parties or even tea party revolts. People are losing jobs, still finding it hard to afford quality health care, state budgets are stripping education and transportation dollars, and the country is growing more polarized.

Through all of this, we’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, as if somehow it’s no longer in vogue. Can you imagine Bob Dole today presiding over the Senate and authentically calling George Mitchell, his rival leader, his “good friend”? One of the things I find most striking about the current Congress is anecdotal — that my friends who still work there tell me that very few people on opposite sides of the aisle talk to each other anymore, and as such they don’t like each other. It’s so easy to wreak havoc when you don’t have to look someone in the eye or talk to them the next day. One of my best friends, who worked with me in the Senate for a Republican (when I worked for a Democrat) told me of an infamous trip to Russia spearheaded by a major Republican and Democratic Senator (among others), and how on that trip the two of them did shots together, ate dinner together and later upon their return, worked really well together. These two senators made things happen — not major issues, although they had their fair share — but when a little logjam came up in the Senate, they were able to talk to each other because they had a mutual respect for each other as people. The kind earned when you have a drink and talk about your family or your kids.

So maybe in this crazy election season, at a time of true crisis in our country, we need to resurrect a tradition of the old day of Congress.  If all else fails, lets shut these folks in a room, order a few bottles of liquor and let nature take its course. They’ll either be a bar-room brawl, or these folks will finally learn to work together.

The only thing I know for sure, is that if we keep staring at each other from across the void, hurling insults at one another, nothing is going to  happen, and nobody, and I mean nobody, wins.

— Jeff Kimball