Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks with reporters following a Democratic strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, May 7, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargeant reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is threatening to make filibuster reform a reality if Republicans block three key Obama cabinet nominees in coming weeks.
President Obama’s picks to head the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau are in danger of — or already are — being filibustered. Apparently, Harry Reid has had enough. MORE
A China Southern Cargo jet takes off at LAX International airport in Los Angeles Monday, April 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Just as we’re bemoaning our narcoleptic Congress (see our latest, “Do-Nothing Congress Gives Inertia a Bad Name”), the august body suddenly awakes and springs into action as if someone upped the amperage on its power massage recliners.
Of course, it turns out they were pretty much acting in their own self interest and not exactly the enlightened kind either. No, they briefly rousted themselves to alter the sequestration rules – the ones calling for across-the-board budget cuts – so that airlines and airports won’t be entangled in flight delays caused by the furloughing of air traffic controllers employed by the government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
True, the lengthened waiting lines and extended time on the tarmac were quickly frustrating families on vacation and business travelers especially (and your elected representatives certainly don’t want to offend business, do they?), but the timing of the House and Senate pushing through the change just as members were about to fly back to their states and districts for a week’s recess was infelicitous at best. Plus, they moved the goal lines far more eagerly than they’ve been willing to do for any of the domestic social programs that already are feeling the bite of the sequester-mandated budget cuts. MORE
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy told reporters that he is concerned that many politically charged issues are coming before the high court. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Starting today, the Supreme Court is hearing two monumental cases relating to same-sex marriage, both at a time when public opinion polls show a growing number of Americans support marriage equality.
A Pew Research Center poll released last week found that 49 percent of Americans support gay marriage and took a deeper look at the reasons why.
The Pew data is most applicable to the case before the Supreme Court determining whether California’s Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in the state, is constitutional. The other case deals with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which officially defines marriage as between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to same-sex partners of government employees. A Gallup poll released on Friday found that, if it were put to a vote, 54 percent of Americans would cast a ballot to allow same-sex partners of federal employees to receive benefits, while only 37 percent would vote to not allow it. MORE
Despite these horrific outcomes, the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion passed with little fanfare in the nation’s capitol. As Peter Baker writes in today’s New York Times, Tuesday came and went “with barely passing notice in a town once consumed by it” in what amounts to a “conspiracy of silence.”
Neither party had much interest in revisiting what succeeded and what failed, who was right and who was wrong. The bipartisan consensus underscored the broader national mood: after 10 years, America seems happy to wash its hands of Iraq. …
President Obama, who rose to political heights on the strength of his opposition to the war, made no mention of it in appearances on Tuesday. Instead, he issued a written statement saluting “the courage and resolve” of the 1.5 million Americans who served during eight years in Iraq and honoring the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans “who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Desiline Victor, 102, of Miami is applauded by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, right, and others, during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Obama promised in his victory speech to “fix” the long lines and other voting-related problems that Americans had to deal with across the country on election day. In his State of the Union address, he announced a plan to begin work on our broken election system.
“We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.”
The announcement was underwhelming to some voting rights advocates. Some worried that it sounded similar to the Election Assistance Commission, which was formed after the 2000 election to prevent future contested election results. Republicans have attacked the EAC as a waste of money since it’s formation, and in recent years have attempted to shut it down by refusing to appoint or approve any nominees to empty posts. Last September, the Washington Post dubbed it the “zombie voting commission” due to its lack of leadership; all four commissioner spots are empty and its been without an executive director for over a year. MORE
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke presides over a meeting of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors at the Federal Reserve in Washington. Seated at the table, from second left to right are the Federal Reserve Board of Governors: Janet Yellen; Elizabeth Duke; Daniel Tarullo; Sarah Raskin; Jeremy Stein; Jerome Powell. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
One downside of the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate is an equally low rate of return on bank deposits and government bonds. In yesterday’s The New York Times’, Nathaniel Popper writes that unsavvy investors seeking a higher rate of return have fallen victim to financial brokers selling risky junk bonds, real estate bundles (REITs) and other fraudulent “speculative bets.”These ”alternative investments” recently have drawn the attention of the Fed and other regulatory groups.
Brokers promoting bad investments to unsophisticated investors is [sic] nothing new. But while the easy prey used to be people looking to get rich quick, the pool has widened to include savers looking for ways to earn the kind of income once reliably available from traditional investments.
Regulators are warning investors that the dangers are unlikely to recede, given the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep interest rates near zero and the push among financial firms to earn more revenue from so-called alternative investments marketed to retail investors. Brokers are eager to sell these investments because they often bring in higher commissions than standard mutual funds and stocks.
Immigration activists hold hands in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami on Monday. The Florida Immigrant Coalition, together with other immigrant families and community organizations, have initiated the Di Que Si! campaign, which translates into English I said yes!, demanding immigration reform that creates a system that keeps families united. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
President Obama’s outline for immigration reform, released yesterday during his Las Vegas speech, has much in common with the plan put forth by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday. But there’s one important way Obama’s plan differs from the proposals of the “gang of eight.” MORE
In a 2010 Senate hearing that has become a focal point for progressivecritics, Jacob Lew, the president’s pick for Treasury Secretary, told Senator Bernie Sanders that he didn’t believe deregulation was a “proximate cause” of the financial crisis.
In this clip from Bill’s interview with economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Bill asks Krugman what he thinks of Lew’s views on the financial crisis, and what his appointment might mean in terms of future Wall Street regulation.
Bill’s interview with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about the moral underpinnings of our contentious culture was the most viewed video on BillMoyers.com in 2012. In this video from TED/New York — posted on Monday — Haidt talks about the polarization in Congress and how common threats, such as income inequality and climate change, might create common (political) ground. Haidt explains the divide as a type of “gang warfare”: MORE
Last week saw an important milestone on the road toward implementing the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare: Friday was the deadline for states to let the Department of Health and Human Services know whether they’d be setting up their own health care exchange, or wanted the federal government to do it for them.
The exchanges required under the ACA are online marketplaces where people needing to buy health insurance can compare the options available in their state and purchase a plan. As many as 30 million people are expected to buy health insurance through the exchanges, which are scheduled to be up and running in all states in 2014.
President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Feb. 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote on the Department’s blog that as of last week’s deadline, 18 states and the District of Columbia had applied to set up their own exchanges. The other 31 states will either partner with the federal government to create an exchange, or allow the federal government to implement an exchange for them.