Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

SENATE: GOP’s Fight Against 9/11 Heroes …reminder


Two weeks ago, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a bill that would provide health benefits to September 11th first responders who have contracted illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals during their response to the attacks.  Named after James Zadroga, a responder who was killed in 2006 by respiratory disease, the bill sets aside money to monitor and treat the health of these firefighters, police officers, and construction workers, and would reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides payments for job and economic losses. When it was initially filibustered, no Republican Senator came to the floor to explain why the bill, which was fully paid-for w ith spending offsets, didn’t deserve to pass. That shameful performance led Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart to dedicate an entire show to taking both the Senate and the media to task for refusing to make the bill a priority. “So guess what, Republicans? Here’s the deal: Your ‘We’re the only party who understands 9/11 and its repercussions’  monopoly ends now,” Stewart said. Other media commentators piled on, and with a few fixes made to address concerns regarding how it is paid for, the bill has new life and could pass this week.

A REAL NECESSITY: According to researchers at the Albert Einstein University’s Montefiore Medical Center in New York, the dust at the World Trade Center site was “a combination of the  most dense, intense particulate matter [fire fighters and EMS personnel were] ever exposed to in an urban environment.” David Prezant, a specialist in respiratory medicine, explained to Voice of America that respiratory ailments arising from exposure to that dust results in “a persistent, real decline that requires long-term monitoring and aggressive treatment.” A report by the AFL-CIO in September of this year revealed that 13,000 first responders were still being treated for health problems, nine years after the attacks took place. “They told us if we did our job, they’d take care of us. We did our job. Now we’re sick and  they don’t remember who we are anymore,” said Greg Staub, who retired from the New York City Fire Department in 2009 due to chronic lung problems. When Stewart asked first responder John Devlin what he thought of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) giving a teary farewell to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) on the Senate floor while the Zadroga bill languished, Devlin responded, “Where is his human feeling for — not only for us, we represent the brother and sisters…that can’t come out and speak like we can.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is one of the strongest proponents of the Zadroga bill, said on Good Morning America yesterday that “ thousands will die because they don’t get adequate medical care” unless the bill is passed.

PROCESS OVER SUBSTANCE: The callous response of many Republican Senators to these very real health concerns has been nothing short of appalling. For instance, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) insisted that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy  were a higher priority than the Zadroga bill. While in the Senate rotunda, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stepped around a first responder asking for his support, telling him, “I can’t help you.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) even called the Capitol Police when some first responders planned to stage a sit-in at Senate offices. When Republicans weren’t ignoring actual first responders, they were proferring nonsensical procedural reasons for opposing the bill. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), for example, said that the bill was being considered “in a hurry, in a lame duck session,  without a hearing, without understanding what the ramifications are and whether we can amend the bill.” However, the bill was first introduced in the House four years ago, has been available in the Senate since 2009, and received a Senate hearing in June 2010. Senate Republican excuses have worn thin amongst even those on the right, with former Republican congressman Joe Sc arborough asking, “How did this become a New York issue? That is like Pearl Harbor becoming a Hawaii issue in 1951. It’s ridiculous.” Last week, former GOP Arkansas Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said “every Republican” should support the bill.

THE CHAMBER’S OPPOSITION: As ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang reported, “While Republicans quietly snuffed out efforts to compensate 9/11 heroes, they were aided by a quiet lobbying campaign by the powerful lobbying front — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” The Chamber didn’t like that the bill was being paid for by closing a tax loophole used by multinational corporations who park their income in tax havens; the Chamber warned that closing the loophole would “damage U.S. relationships with major trading partners” and “aggravate already unsettled financial markets.” The Chamber, of course, has repeatedly lobbied against important pieces of legislation — including an extension of unemployment benefits for jobless workers — because they were paid for by eliminating some of the many tax breaks that corporations exploit to pay little or no U.S. corporate income taxes. This time, the Chamber was quite successful in its lobbying push, as Sen. Susan Collin s (R-ME) released a statement saying that she would only support the bill if the pay-for were changed. Ultimately, the change was made, which led Schumer to say, “We now have the votes, we’ve made some modifications that some of our Republican colleagues requested and if no one does undue delay, just stands up and delays and delays and delays, we will get this done.” However, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is still threatening to block the bill

Washington in the News …sensible Washington


sensiblewashingtonbadge

Support Senate Bill 6083 and House Bill 2196 to Legalize Cannabis Cultivation

I support medical use of cannabis, patients rights and #HouseBill1024 ~ Nativegrl77

 

Social Security cuts: The clearest explanation anywhere


a repost

Dear MoveOn member,

If you want to understand the fight over Social Security cuts that ended last week (we won!), you’ve got to hear this podcast.

We’ve put together what might be the clearest and most entertaining explanation of the battle that you can find anywhere. It’s a story that goes a lot deeper than what you might have read in the paper. And it’s online now, free.

Yes! I want to hear the inside story of the Social Security battle.

If you like this podcast, subscribe on iTunes for more! Or you can listen on our website here, with Stitcher (an Android and iOS app), or by subscribing via RSS.

This is no dry policy debate. This is a story of Wall Street billionaires, Tea Party obstructionists, grassroots progressives—and an Obama administration trying to find its way. It’s the real story behind the constant clashes over the debt ceiling, the deficit, and the so-called grand bargain. And it’ll leave you cheering.

Joining us is a guy who was at the center of it all. We interviewed Alex Lawson, the charmingly fired-up wonk-activist who, working behind the scenes, led a citizen coalition—including MoveOn members like us—to challenge the idea that there was any good reason to propose Social Security cuts. In fact, we argued, Social Security should be expanded.

You’ll love not only Alex’s energy but also his bracingly insightful point of view. Even on an issue that might feel intimidating or complex, things look pretty clear when you’re David aiming your slingshot as you look up at Goliath.

Click here to open iTunes and check out the podcast (and subscribe and review!) … or listen at our website here.

This is a story that all of us are part of. MoveOn members and our allies have stood strong in the conviction that nobody in this country should have to work for a lifetime and wind up in poverty. The fight goes on, of course, as it always does. But there’s something deeply gratifying about being on the right side of history.

Thanks for all you do.

–Ben Wikler

P.S. “The Good Fight” is a MoveOn-backed podcast and radio show about people changing the world. Since launching a few months ago, we’ve hit the No. 1 spot on the podcast charts, been named one of Apple’s best podcasts of 2013, and interviewed guests from Senator Al Franken to Sister Simone Campbell, the nun who helped save Obamacare. Our goal: tell the inside stories of the fights behind the headlines, introduce you to the heroes and villains shaping politics, and inspire more people to get involved.

If you like the show (every episode is on iTunes!), help us spread the word! And we’d love your feedback. Tell us what you like and how we can get better, and pitch stories, at show@thegoodfight.fm.

Fair Employment Protection Art


AAUW Action Network

The Supreme Court has gotten it wrong again, and it’s up to us to get Congress to fix their mistake. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has specifically asked us to!

In a 5-4 ruling last year, the court created an artificial distinction between types of workplace “supervisors.” This decision creates an extra hurdle for workers suing their employers for workplace harassment, unequal pay, and other forms of discrimination.

Here’s the problem: The court’s ruling doesn’t mesh with the realities of the modern workplace!
Millions of workers are overseen by other employees who don’t have the authority to hire or fire them, yet still shape their day-to-day work experience through actions such as making their schedule, giving them time off, or assigning them projects and tasks. This wrong-headed decision virtually gives a green light to sexual harassment as long as it doesn’t come from “the boss.”

Under the 2013 ruling, known as Vance v. Ball State University, this “overseeing” type of employee is now classified as a co-worker, meaning that any harassment from them is subject to a lesser standard – despite the obvious fact that they have power over other workers. This problematic decision is of particular concern to women – a national poll found that 25 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, as have one in 10 men.

Tell Congress: We need laws that reflect what it’s like to work in the real world. We need the Fair Employment Protection Act, which would restore longstanding workplace protections the Vance ruling took away. We must return to a reasonable definition that reflects the modern workplace.

Think about your own experiences at work. You knew who set your schedule and gave you assignments, but did you know who could make the decision to fire you? Was it your direct boss? Was it the HR manager? Was it the company president that you met only once? Under the court’s standard, if your boss doesn’t have the power to fire you, he/she isn’t considered your “supervisor.” And that’s just silly.

The Fair Employment Protection Act was just introduced today, so it’s time to make your voice heard: Tell Congress to support the Fair Employment Protection Act to protect all workers from harassment.

A Threat To Women And Workers


By

What you Need To Know About Today’s Supreme Court Rulings

The Supreme Court issued two important rulings this morning: one that makes it harder for women to exercise their right to choose, and a second that effectively eliminates a President’s ability to make recess appointments and could imperil unions down the road as a consequence. The remaining decisions this session are expected to come next Monday, including Hobby Lobby (can owners of a for-profit, secular corporation impose their religious beliefs on their employees?) and Harris v. Quinn (are public sector unions’ fair share fees that ensure all employees, regardless of whether they are members of the union, receive the collectively bargained-for benefits constitutional?)

The decisions today were both handed down unanimously by the High Court. Here’s more on what the implications are for each:

McCullen v. Coakley

The decision: The Court struck down a Massachusetts’ law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion providers, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay that far away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech. The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to safeguard women’s access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.

The argument: The Justices argue that the 35-foot zone in the Massachusetts law restricts “access to ‘public way[s]‘ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech ac­tivities.” Therefore, the opinion states, the law burdens “substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests.” The justices do not categorically deny the right for states to set up buffer zones protecting abortion clinics, but do effectively remove the Massachusetts law and threaten other similar safety measures around the country.

The implications: The decision is a blow to women. Since 1993, eight clinic workers have been murdered. There have been 6,400 reported acts of violence against abortion providers since 1977. According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which closely tracks threats and violence against abortion providers across the country, buffer zones have had a measurable impact improving safety in the areas where they’re in place.

BOTTOM LINE: The Supreme Court itself has a buffer zone around it’s 252-by-98-foot plaza, preventing protesters from demonstrating too close to the entrance. Surely it can see the need for abortion clinics, the subject of frequent and sometimes violent intimidation from their opponents, to have a reasonable buffer zone as well.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

The decision: The Court effectively eliminated the president’s power to make recess appointments in all but the most unusual circumstances. It limits the president’s constitutional duty to appoint leaders that keep our country working for all Americans, from making sure our elections are fair to protecting workers’ and consumer rights.

The argument: Prior to Noel Canning, a federal appeals court — the highest legal authority to weigh in on the question — confirmed that a president does indeed have the power to make recess appointments. Specifically, it ruled that sham sessions known as “pro forma” sessions held by the Senate every three days in order to defeat a president’s attempts to make these appointments were in fact not enough to stop him. Every single justice on the Supreme Court, however, disagreed with that ruling and voted against recess appointments today, although the Court split 5-4 on rationale. Five justices, overturning the appeals court, opined that these “pro forma” sessions were in fact enough to block a president from making recess appointments because “the Senate is in session when it says it is.” The four conservative justices went even further, with an opinion that could have retroactively invalidated thousands of recess appointments made by presidents past if it had garnered just one more vote.

The implications: The impact of this ruling goes beyond a legal technicality. President Obama took the risk of making recess appointments in the first place to fill a minimum number of seats on the National Labor Relations Board, a government agency with exclusive authority to enforce much of federal labor law. NLRB members serve five year terms, and unless at least three seats on the board are occupied, it is powerless to act. Therefore, the fullest impact of this decision will likely be felt in 2018, when the five year terms of the NLRB’s current slate of members expire. Even if the president at that time supports allowing federal labor law to function in 2018, he or she will be unable to keep the NLRB functioning if a majority of the Senate is determined to shut down federal labor protections.

More broadly, the decision underscores the importance of the Senate’s action last November to allow executive nominees to receive an up or down confirmation vote. Without last year’s change to the Senate rules, today’s decision would have empowered a small, but vocal minority, to use arcane procedure to block the government from being able to function properly.

BOTTOM LINE: In a technical ruling, the Supreme Court took away the president’s power to make recess appointments. While today’s court decision will have little immediate impact, its long-term effects remain unclear and could threaten the rights of workers across the country if the NLRB is dismantled. The House and Senate must find new ways to ensure that the politics of obstruction and shutdown do not limit the ability of our nation to function properly.

Stay tuned for more Court decisions on Monday. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, RSVP to join a rally hosted by NARAL in front of the Supreme Court that morning.