Saturday, December 4, 2010


Representative Rob Andrews, [D-NJ]

Kudos to New Jersey's Democratic Representative Rob Andrews for concisely and correctly framing the issues of the day. During debate on S. 3307, from the Congressional Record:

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, the Senate unanimously passed this bill. Unanimously. I think I understand why, because they understood what I hope we understand today is the choice that is in front of the country. You can understand that choice by thinking about where two Americans are at this moment.

One of them is a second grader who just went through her paces and classes for the morning. It's now time for lunch. This bill says no matter how much money her mother and father make, she is going to get a nutritious, wholesome meal to fuel her for the rest of the day. And, yes, that is going to cost $4 billion, which is offset by cuts in other areas of the budget.

The second American is the leader of a huge hedge fund on Wall Street. He is on his way to lunch at the priciest restaurant in Manhattan, maybe a $200 or $300 lunch. One of the other issues before the Congress this week is whether he should get a tax cut that over the years will cost a dollar for every penny that this bill costs. These are the two Americans whose considerations are before the House today.
The Republican arguments against S. 3307 all came from House Republicans. This bill came from the Senate with unanimous approval by all Senators voting. That's not going to stop the Party of No which is about to become the Party of No Governance. House Republicans argued that the bill was too costly and that the Federal Government has no role to play in telling anyone school children have to eat nutritional meals, which are subsidized by the Federal Government.

Remember that Republicans want to borrow $700 billion over the next decade to finance the Fat Cat Tax Boondoggle and now they balk at subsidizing school lunches. 22% of our schoolchildren are hungry. The bi-partisan plan the Senate developed addresses how to get nutritious food to the kids.

What does the Congressional Budget Office say about the cost of S. 3307? Well, over the next decade is it not only not going to cost $700 billion it is projected to decrease the deficit by $12 million to $14 million. Senate 3307 is tackling two problems. It is getting nutritious food to children and it is putting the brakes on deficit spending. See,

Face it, we've got to slow the growth of deficit spending before we get anywhere close to being deficit neutral or actually tackling the debt, House Republicans are just waving the spending is evil flag and ignoring the facts. That's called demagoguery, not leadership, not governing, and it results in another vote where they demonstrate that they are willing to throw the babies out with the bathwater.

That second argument might have merit if the Federal Government did not already have an on-going program being administered through the States providing school lunches. A law or rule telling someone that they can't have junk food served at the public expense is essentially making and enforcing health policy. "Police Powers" give the States authority to regulate for the benefit of the public's health. The Federal Government does not have this authority and operates only on the grants of authority expressly made by the Constitution.

The argument loses traction because the Federal Government is not making the policy in a vacuum. If it were unconstitutional for the Federal Government to be engaged in subsidizing school lunches we would have heard about it before. The Republicans aren't arguing that, today. They're just arguing that the Federal Government shouldn't require the Federal dollars to be wisely spent by the States.

So where does the Federal Government find this authority to regulate for the health of schoolchildren? Take a look at 42 U.S.C. §1751. That's the codified declaration of policy for the school lunch program. It says: "It is declared to be the policy of Congress, as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food, by assisting the States, through grants-in-aid and other means, in providing an adequate supply of foods and other facilities for the establishment, maintenance, operation, and expansion of nonprofit school lunch programs.

Congress properly sees children as an essential component in national security. Protecting our children by safeguarding their health and well-being means that this nation will have future generations prepared to live full and free lives.

The Republicans, however, argue that if the States want to have their children eating high starch, high fat, and high sugar foods with little protein and less fiber, then get Uncle Sam off their backs! And these people were actually elected to Congress!

S. 3307 passed the House on roll call vote 603 by a margin of 264 to 157 with 13 Members not voting. Not all House Republicans voted against this bill. 16 Republicans broke with their leadership. Good for them.

The lady filling the office of Representative to Congress from Kansas' Second Congressional District (where I live), Lynn Jenkins, voted against school children getting nutritious lunches. Lynn Jenkins does not represent us.

Then came the second part of Representative Andrews premise, the Middle Class Tax Cuts which do not extend the Bush Era tax cuts for incomes above $250,000.

H.R. 4853 is now known as the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010. When it left the Senate it was called the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2010, Part III. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House - designate, calls it the Chicken Crap Act. I think John probably knows a lot about Chicken Crap. He's just ticked off because he can't run the clock on the 111th Congress and grind the government to a complete standstill unless he can deliver for the top 2% of America's wealthiest. Make no mistake about it, the Democrats are fighting for the first 98% of us and the Republicans are fighting hard as hell for the top 2%.

When H.R. 4853 came back to the House an amendment was added providing, among other things, that everyone, all 100% of us, filing income tax returns would get the extension of the Bush Era tax cuts on the first quarter of a million dollars of taxable income. That's not good enough for Boehner and the Party of No.

There is a hard truth Boehner, Jenkins, and the Republicans won't tell you. We have to finance all of our tax cuts. The Middle Class Tax Cuts will cost us and drive up the deficit by "$145 billion in fiscal year 2011, by $203 billion in 2012, and by $1.5 trillion over the 2011-2020 period," according to the CBO. If we added the FAT CAT TAX BOONDOGGLE to the equation then we'd be adding the additional $700 billion to that $1.5 trillion. That means the Republicans want to start off by plunging us $2.2 trillion further into the hole before agreeing to anything more. And if we did that there wouldn't be any money left with which to govern. See,, for the CBO estimate on the tax cut.

H.R. 4853 passed the House on roll call vote 604. The margin was 234 to 188. Three Republicans joined the Democrats to pass this bill and send it back to the Senate. Now Senate Republicans will have to vote to let the measure come to the floor. Will Senate Republicans cut off their noses to spite their faces? Or are they serious about governing?

If H.R. 4853 goes to the Senate floor it looks like it will be amended. So far five amendments are sitting in the Senate hopper. They were each introduced on December 2nd.

S. Amendment 4727 was introduced by Senator Max Baucus of Montana and cosponsored by Senators Rockefeller, Kerry, Carper, Stabenow, Schumer, Menendez, and Bingaman. The express purpose of S.Amend.4727 is to change the enactment date. This appears to relate to §201, INCREASED LIMITATIONS ON EXPENSING BY SMALL BUSINESSES OF CERTAIN DEPRECIABLE ASSETS. The House version, as passed, sets the date for this section "to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2011". This Senate Amendment ties this section "s if included in section 10909 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act". This appears to have the effect of making the tax extensions retroactive to "taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009". This means that if Republicans try to repeal Health Care Reform, that they will shoot themselves in the foot with a tax cut extension for small businesses.

S. Amendment 4728 was introduced by Senator Schumer together with Senators Menendez and Stabenow. The express purpose of the amendment says that it is perfecting in nature. This amendment removes the airport provisions from the bill and makes it a standalone tax cut bill. This amendment is a compromise on the FAT CAT TAX BOONDOGGLE. Rather than set the threshold for everyone at $250,000, these Democratic Senators want to compromise at $1,000,000. Really? Reporting a million dollar income makes you middle class? Really!

Senate Amendment 4729 was proposed by the Majority Leader, Senator Reid. His amendment calls for a study. Senator Reid wants to have a study which includes "specific information on the impact of the delay in extending the tax cuts'' Come on Harry. If the House and Senate haven't figured out the impact of delays in extending the Bush era tax cuts then the public is right in its lack of confidence in the institution.

Senate Amendment 4730 also comes from Senator Reid, this one is in the nature of a perfecting amendment. This is an amendment to his original amendment. By now I am thinking that these piddling amendments are place holders so Senator Reid can do some parliamentary finagling.

Senate Amendment 4731is another Senator Reid amendment. Other than place holding for some future wrinkle in the law it offers no real substance.

Now a word on cloture. Cloture is the device the Senate uses to terminate debate. Current Senate Rules require a supermajority of 60 votes to terminate debate so that the bill can go to a final vote. Senate Amendments 4727 and 4728 are subject to cloture motions as of December 2nd. Under current rules cloture rules are ignored for one full day during which the Senate is sitting. These cloture motions were filed on Thursday, they were ignored on Friday. Today is Saturday, and that my friends may be why Senator Reid, with the clock running down, has the Senate sitting today.

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