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The Republican War on the Poor is evident in their continued opposition to raising the national minimum wage.  Like on many other issues they are out of tune with the American people.  Fully three quarters of the American people support raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 according to a Gallup poll released this week.  Almost as many support indexing it to inflation so the issue does not have to be raised every few years in Congress and held hostage to Republican obstructionism.

As Gallup notes:

Despite President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call to raise the wage to $9 — and widespread rallies populated mainly by hourly fast-food workers — legislation that would accomplish this goal has thus far languished. More recently, the Obama administration has voiced support for the Harkin-Miller bill, which would raise the minimum wage even higher — to $10.10.

Republicans in Congress have continued to support tax breaks for the wealthy and oppose raising taxes in general which has benefited the wealthy the most. At the same they are resolutely opposed to helping people on the bottom of the economic ladder. Republicans in the US House in March voted unanimously against raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

As the Huffington Post reported in March:

A proposal by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next two years and increase the wage for tipped employees to 70 percent of the minimum wage was defeated, with every House Republican voting against the motion. On the Democratic side, six lawmakers voted against the measure, and 184 Democrats voted for it.

Washington State’s minimum wage is currently the highest in the country at $9.19.  It is indexed to inflation and will increase to $9.32 next year.  It covers both retail workers and agricultural workers.  It has an exception for 14 and 15 year olds who can be paid at 85% of the minimum or $7.81 per hour.

Washington voters twice passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage in recent years.  The last time in 1998 they added a provision to index the minimum wage to inflation. That Initiative, Initiative 688, passed with a 66% yes vote.

Voters in SeaTac, Washington on the Nov 2013 ballot are passing a proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. As of Nov 14 the measure is ahead by 52 votes. And it looks like if it wins, next up will be a court battle.

Tim Kaine has sent out the following e-mail to Democrats announcing his decision to run in 2012 for US Senator in Virginia.  Jim Webb, the current US Senator, has previously announced he would not be running for re-election.


Dear DNC Members,
I am writing to let you know that I have just announced my decision to run for the U.S. Senate from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2012. To that end, I am stepping down as DNC Chair, effective immediately.
In the coming days, I will share some thoughts on my decision to run, my appreciation for the opportunity you gave me to serve as your Chair, and what we were able to accomplish together.
In the meantime, I am sure you will be as supportive of the President’s choice to replace me as you have been of me for the past two years. There will be more information about this important transition to follow.
I will treasure the friendships I’ve made during my time at the DNC, and hope that we will maintain those friendships in the years ahead.
It is an exciting time for the DNC. It is also an exciting next chapter for my family and me, as I embark down a new path on which I hope to serve as one of Virginia’s U.S. Senators.
Thank you for your hard work and support along the way and for all that you will do in the months and years ahead.
With gratitude,
Tim Kaine

Kaine also has a video up at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mBX1TotZYtk announcing his decision.

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Republicans in the US House have come up with their budget cutting ideas and guess who and what loses out? Not the rich or wealthy or corporations but pregnant women and children, childhood immunizations, assistance for blind and disabled children, legal aid for the poor, family planning,  National Public Radio and public television, police hiring grants, job training grants, community health centers, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans, in December, held out for and got an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. As CNN Money reported this came to $81.5 billion over 2 years. No offsetting spending reduction occurred elsewhere and now the bill starts coming due. Republicans in the House of Representatives have come up with a proposal to cut some $74 billion from the current budget.

So just who do they propose should give up the revenue lost by extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy? None other than the people least able to help themselves in our down economy and who most need help. According to the Washington Post, the Republicans say this is necessary to create jobs.

Yet as has debated and documented, giving tax breaks to the wealthy does not stimulate the economy anywhere near what directly providing assistance to people out of work does. People with little or no money spend what they get right away and it goes into the economy. The wealthy have been shown not to spend the extra money they get.

As reported by Bloomberg.com news “rich Americans save their tax cuts instead of spending”:

Give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it.

Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.

So much for the benefits of a tax cut for the wealthy. Here’s some more details on what the Republicans want to cut to pay for the tax cut for the wealthy according to the Washington Post:

House Republicans sketched their vision for a smaller federal government Wednesday, proposing sharp spending cuts that would wipe out family planning programs, take 4,500 cops off the street and slice 10 percent from a food program that aids pregnant women and their babies.

Top White House priorities also would come under the knife: Key Republicans are proposing to defund President Obama’s high speed rail initiative, slash clean energy programs and gut the Office of Science by 20 percent – cuts that would deal a direct blow to Obama’s innovation agenda. They would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 17 percent.

Here are some more specific cuts attributed to the Associated Press in a Seattle Times article today.

GOP plan

Budget proposals released Wednesday by House Republicans:

Program eliminations:
AmeriCorps $373 million in 2010 budget
Police hiring grants $298 million
High-speed rail $1 billion
Family planning $317 million
Corporation for Public Broadcasting $531 million

Reductions:
Food aid to pregnant women and their children $407 million cut, or 6 percent
NASA $103 million, 1 percent
Environmental Protection Agency $1.9 billion, 18 percent
IRS $106 million, 1 percent
Legal aid for the poor $60 million, 14 percent
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $894 million, 13 percent
Food and Drug Administration $61 million, 3 percent
Community Development Fund $600 million, 13 percent
Agricultural research $246 million, 10 percent

Last night my answering machine recorded a Republican robo-call. The call said that “A lot of people are upset with Washington DC because nothing gets done. Patty Murray is part of the problem” The joke/deception of course is that they expect the public to believe it. Republicans by obstructing and stopping  a lot of legislation from being passed by the US Senate through their threat of the filibuster, prevented many things from getting done. The joke/lie is that the Republicans expect  us to believe it is the Democrat’s and Patty Murray’s fault. Is enough of the public really gullible enough to believe it’s the Democrats fault? And when one looks at what Democrats accomplished in Congress over the last two year’s (see below) it’s obvious the Republicans are lying about what Congress did.

Unfortunately with the country still fairly evenly divided politically it doesn’t take a lot of voters to change the makeup of Congress. The answer in the current political climate is that enough people will believe the Republican joke/deception/lie such that Republicans will be even more able to obstruct Democrats from moving the country forward with needed reform.

The right wing free market and corporate deluging of the media has been intense. The public is being fooled by the Republican storyline because voters are looking for a scapegoat for the country’s problems.  It is a lot easier to blame someone – like the Democrats- because they are in power, than it is to work for solutions. And the Republicans have been more intent on demonizing the Democrats for political gain than they have been on advocating for solutions that will benefit the majority of Americans that are not wealthy.

Democrats inherited a colossal problem  It  is for multiple reasons they are not faring well in this election. There will be endless discussions of this over the next few days.  Reasons listed will include the Democrats not boasting about their accomplishments enough, Obama not providing a clear vision of his future for America, the question whether the Government is responsible for the state of the economy or whether it is private enterprise and Wall Street greed driving things, the issue of  the news media preferring to cover conflict rather than resolution, the huge influx of hidden corporate and special intererest money and a Republican noise and propaganda machine that set the agenda for what this election was about rather than the Democrats.

Obama’s role in the Democrat’s plight can somewhat be explained  when he publicly said he was concentrating on getting things done rather than  dealing with politics and outreach to the public. The deactivating after his election of his grassroots organization that helped him get elected was obviously a serious mistake. It’s re-activation in this Election season comes too little and too late for many Democrats.

There are many candidates and elected officials that have had good ideas but who did not see them come to fruition. It is not enough to be “right”. You must also bring the people along with you. And you must keep them with you. It is not enough to win a legislative battle if you do not win the public perception battle that this is progress and is good for them.

A few reports by the news media note that both Congress and the President have accomplished a lot in the last two years. But it is too little recognition too late. The reports are true but the Republican death song has been going on too long to really get people’s to stop and look.

If some people perceive that Congress couldn’t act these last two years, they certainly will see much more inaction with more Republicans in Congress. And you will see the Republicans continue to blame the Democrats of course for any inaction, regardless of  Republican inaction or their obvious intent to do as little as possible to pass anything the Democrats or Obama wants..

The Republican plan of action will be to obstruct most everytihing unless they get exactly what they want.  The reality is it doesn’t matter what Obama does as long as the Republican goal is power and not solving our nation’s problems. Their goal as Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said is to make Obama a one term President. And they will not give or do anything that they think will make Obama look good.

While much was watered down that Obama and the Democrats passed, like financial reform and health care, a lot else did get done from a Democratic perspective. Two female Supreme Court Justices The Lily Ledbetter Act for equal pay for women.  More student loan money. Withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.  But so much is in what people think, not the reality. The reality is that Congress did get a lot done, despite what the majority of the voting  public may believe.  If people perceived that Congress couldn’t act, they certainly will see much more inaction with more Republicans in Congress.

Actually here’s a list of 42 things Democrats and Obama accomplished. It’s unfortunate that the Republicans have been able to spin a false picture to the American voters.  Regardless of the vote today, this list stands. It remains to be seen what will get done with more Republicans in Washington. This will be the record to compare with two years from now. Thanks to rescue truth. for this list of “Democratic Accomplishments you may not Know About”.

25 Tax Cuts Passed By Obama & Democrats

Individuals

1.“Making Work Pay” tax credit

2.Earned Income Tax Credit increased

3.Increased Eligibility for Refundable Portion of Child Credit

4.“American Opportunity” Education Tax Credit

5.First-time Home Buyer Credit

6.Temp. Suspension of Taxation of Unemployment Benefits

7.Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes

8.Sales Tax Deduction for Vehicle Purchases

9.Premium Credits for COBRA Continuation Coverage for Unemployed Workers

10.Economic Recovery Credits to Recipients of Social Security, SSI, RR Retirement, and Veterans Disability Compensation Benefits

11.Computers as Qualified Education Expenses in 529 Education Plans

12.Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit

13.Tax Parity for Transit Benefits

14.Health Coverage Tax Credit Expansion

Small Business

1.Extension of Enhanced Small Business Expensing

2.5-Year Carryback of Net Operating Losses for Small Businesses

3.Extension of Bonus Depreciation

4.Exclusion of 75% of Small Business Capital Gains from Taxes

5.Temporary Small Business Estimated Tax Payment Relief

6.Temporary Reduction of S Corporation Built-In Gains Holding Period from 10 Years to 7 Years

Other Business

1.Advanced Energy Investment Credit

2.Tax Credits for Alternative Refueling Property

3.Work Opportunity Tax Credits for Hiring Unemployed Veterans and Disconnected Youth

4.Delayed Recognition of Certain Cancellation of Debt Income

5.Election to Accelerate Recognition of Historic AMT/R&D Credits

Fun Fact: 1/3 of the $862 billion stimulus was for tax cuts, something Republicans claim to support … although they still stand against stimulus. I suppose it depends on who gets the tax cuts.

Women’s Rights

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Protection against pay discrimination

Restores interpretation of Title VII of Civil Rights Act that protected women and other workers

Financial Rights

Credit CARD Act

Prevents retroactive rate increases

Requires companies to provide 45 days notice before changing rates and other contract provisions

Additional restrictions placed on fees

Prevents companies from taking advantage of students

Ends unfair double-cycle billing practices

Financial reform bill

Establishes Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which seeks solely to ensure financial institutions are being fair to consumers, and improvement in the simplicity in contracts

Prevents taxpayer bail out of financial institutions

Allows the GAO to audit the Federal Reserve

Various mortgage and derivatives reform, etc.

Education

Student loans[1]

Ends “socialistic” federal subsidies to banks and other financial institutions (Interestingly, Republicans are okay with the kind of socialism that redirects taxpayer money to banks and other financial institutions.)

Eliminates unnecessary “middle-man” in student loan process, which placed financial burden on taxpayers while banks took in profits

Annual student loan payment capped at 10% of income

Saves an estimated $61 billion over 10 years

Health Care

Children’s health insurance bill[2]

CBO said bill will allow states to cover more than four million uninsured children by 2013, in addition to seven million already covered

Requires states to provide dental and mental illness coverage to children

Tobacco regulation

Provides graphic warnings on tobacco use risks

Restricts advertising to prevent marketing to minors

Health care reform

Insurers cannot cancel coverage when a person gets sick

Requires health insurance corporations to cover preexisting conditions

Eliminates lifetime limits

Allows insurance purchase across state lines

Allows young adults to stay on parents’ health insurance policy until 26

Crime & Civil Rights

Hate crime legislation[4]

Provides protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people

Tribal Law and Order Act

Provide additional means to reduce high rates of violent crime, including rape & sexual assualt within Native American reservations

View the rescuetruth.com post on the Tribal Law and Order Act

Other

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

Expands service and voluteer opportunites

Benefits education, health care, energy, etc.

Stimulus

Cash for Clunkers successfully contributed to 680,000+ vehicle sales in summer 2009

Largest clean energy investment ever made

Reduced deficit by $122 billion[5]

Reduced federal spending by 2%[5]

What didn’t get passed because of Republican obstructionism?

Health Care for 9/11 Emergency Responders

DISCLOSE Act (transparency in elections, specifically campaign financing)

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal

Removal of $75 million cap on oil spill payouts

Elimination of tax incentives for companies shipping American jobs overseas, and creation of tax incentives to businesses bringing jobs home

David Frum last week resigned from the right wing American Enterprise Institute after they cancelled his pay and office. Frum is a former President George W Bush speechwriter and decided to speak his own thoughts rather than follow the current Republican campaign strategy of saying no to anything and everything the Democrats and President Obama proposes. Frum’s comments relate to the just passed health care reform legislation.

The Republicans hope that Congress’s not acting on many critical issues helps Republicans get elected.  The only thing they don’t consider in this negative strategy is that the public may wake up and realize that it’s the Republicans that are causing this inaction, not the Democrats.

David Frum, in his column entitled Waterloo on Frum Forum irritated the right wing by his comments that the Republican strategy on health care was and is wrong. It’s not that he’s supporting the Legislation that passed but he believes the Republicans are making a big mistake.

This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

His comments were not a one time fluke. He repeated his comments on CNN the next day in an atricle entitled How GOP can rebound from its “Waterloo”

“Some Republicans talk of repealing the whole bill. That’s not very realistic. Even supposing that Republicans miraculously capture both houses of Congress in November, repeal will require a presidential signature.

More relevantly: Do Republicans write a one-sentence bill declaring that the whole thing is repealed? Will they vote to reopen the “doughnut” hole for prescription drugs for seniors? To allow health insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions? To kick millions of people off Medicaid?

It’s unimaginable, impossible.”

Such blunt talk didn’t sit well with his right wing free enterprise think tank employer. Hence his resignation.

While Frum discusses the GOP’s mistakes and problems he also see the issue from a larger perspective which it is important to keep in mind. Consider these comments he made later to the The Globe and Mail in an article entitled David Frum makes no apologies to Republicans

“The health-care status quo is for sure not sustainable. The United States is now spending 17 per cent of its GDP [on health care] and Canada spends about 10. The average in most developed countries is about 10 1/2 and the runner-up in Switzerland spends about 11. If the United States spent as much on health care as Switzerland does per person, relative to the economy, you would liberate six points of GDP. You would get your entire defence budget for free and have two points of GDP left over to pay down your debt.”

Such straight talk is uncommon these days from Republicans.  While I don’t agree with his proposed “solutions” to changing the health care reform legislation just passed, it is refreshing to see a Republican discuss some hard realities of the problems that our current health care system has produced.

Are there serious flaws in the approach Congress is taking on health care?  Business Week estimates that some $700 billion of heath care costs each year are wasted and believes the current reform bills don’t address this problem.   They state that a new Thomson Reuters (TRI) report finds that:

A sum equal to roughly one-third of the nation’s total health-care spending is flushed away on unnecessary treatments, redundant tests, fraud, errors, and myriad other monetary sinkholes that do nothing to improve the nation’s health. Cut that figure by half, and there would be more than enough money to offer top-notch care to every one of America’s 46 million uninsured.

The Business Week article attributes the $700 billion wasted as being the result primarily of the fee-for-service system that pays hospitals and doctors based on the quantity of medical services provided, rather than on the quality of care.  Without fixing this flaw in the way we provide medical care, the article states health care costs over the next 10 years will double to some $5.2 trillion per year or about 21% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

What is interesting about the article is that it is not against health care reform; in fact it’s emphasis is on ideas that can be implemented now by the medical profession without legislation being required. A number of these ideas are ones that consumers and patients and the medical profession should be demanding that action be taken on because it is absurd that we have a health care system that is dysfunctional and outrageously expensive compared to that of other industrialized nations in the world.

Here is a list of their 10 ideas to cut health care costs now:

1.Crack down on fraud and abuse

2. Develop a healthy workforce

3. Coordinate care through family doctors

4.  Make health a community effort

5.  Stop infections in hospitals

6.  Get patients to take their medicine

7.  Discuss options near the end of life

8.  Use insurance to manage chronic disease

9.  Let well-informed patients decide

10.  Apologize to the patient.

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The national League of Conservation Voters has been active for many year working to defeat anti-environmental members of Congress. Each Congressional election year since 1996 they target the worst environmental Congressmen as the Dirty Dozen.

Since 1996 over half of the candidates named to the Dirty Dozen list have been defeated.This year was no different – seven of their targeted anti-environmental Congressmen went down to defeat.

The losers included:

1. Senator Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Senate race- 7% LCV lifetime voting average

winner Democrat Kay Hagan 53%/44%.

2. Rep. Tim Walberg – Michigan House race (MI-7) – 5% LCV lifetime rating

winner Democrat Mark Schauer 49%/46%.

3. former Rep Ann Northup, Kentucky House race (CD-03)- 7% LCV lifetime score

winner Rep John Yarmuth 59% /41%.

4. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Senate race – 1% LCV lifetime rating

winner Rep. Tom Udall – 96% LCV lifetime rating – 61%/39%.

5. Rep Joe Knollenberg, Michigan House race (MI-09)- 7% LCV lifetime rating

winner Gary Peters 52%/43%.

6. Dean Andal, California House race (CA-11) – 9% LCV lifetime voting rating

winner incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney 55%/45%.

7. Rep Bob Schaffer – Colorado Senate race – 5% LCV lifetime rating

winner Rep Mark Udall 53%/42%

Other targeted Dirty Dozen races were those of Rep Don Young of Alaska, Rep Sam Graves of Missouri, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Sen James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senator Mary Landreau of Louisiana.

Senator Steven is leading in Alaska 48%/47% (106,594 / 103,337) with the race still not called. Rep Young of Alaska had 114,043 votes to Berkowitz’s 97,104 for a 54%/44% vote.
(latest CNN results)

Earlier this afternoon, the US House of Representatives, by a vote of 228 to 205, rejected the proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. On Sunday McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt was busy on Meet the Press rewriting history by touting John McCain’s bringing all the parties to the table and laying out a number of principles, including oversight and responsibility.

I imagine now McCain’s campaign will be busy again rewriting history with a new explanation since some 133 Republicans voted nay on the bailout.

Wall Street, already jittery in the morning because 3 banks failed overseas and Apple stock was downgraded on consumer buying worries in the current economic downturn, saw the Market plunge precipitously by day’s end.

The Dow was down 778.68 points (6.98%)
Nasdaq was down 199.61 points (9.14%)
S&P 500 was down 106.85 points (8.81%)

Democrats voted 140 aye and 95 nay on the bailout.
Republicans voted 65 aye and 133 nay.

How the Washington State Delegation voted:
aye – McDermott, Smith, Baird, Larsen, Dicks
nay – Inslee, Reichert, Hastings, McMorris-Rodgers

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So who’s responsible for Congressional Gridlock? Most Americans have a very low opinion of Congress right now and both parties are blaming the other for preventing action being taken on major issues like health care, immigration, education, transportation, energy independence, and global warming.

In the Presidential race Barack Obama is suggesting that progress will be made by everyone working together while Hillary Clinton is noting the partisan nature of American politics and suggesting that it more complicated than that. John McCain wants to continue the Bush agenda.

I think we are facing a watershed election. The problem is not partisan politics per se but the fact that we are facing a significant and defining difference in political philosophy and goals being expressed by the two major parties that signify a major change in the future direction this country is going to take. And I do not believe that the problem is as simple as merely wishing that we all be nice and work together and we will have a great country.

We are facing a major choice in the fundamental principles and philosophy that govern our country – whether the public interest or private corporate interests will be our guiding principle.Voting Republican or Democrat this November will take our country down completely different paths.

I believe that the Republicans have lost touch with the average citizens in America and under Bush/Cheney/Rove have aligned themselves with the corporate world and special financial interests over that of the public interest. Democrats meanwhile are aligning themselves with the public interest and individual rights and protections over corporate interests.

And I think the Democrats are going to increase significantly their numbers in Congress as well as win the Presidency because the American people are ready for change. They have seen the consequences of putting special interests and corporations in charge of running the country. They are ready to put the public interest back into our government goals and agenda rather than the profit motive of individual and corporate greed.

The March 2008 AARP Bulletin gives some historical perspective and some of the factors contributing to the current gridlock in Congress.

“Many political analysts trace the polarization to the 1980s presidency of Ronald Reagan and his bitter tug of war with a Democratic Congress. Reagan moved the Republican Party to the right, shunning liberal or even moderate Republicans…..

Consolidated around conservatives, the GOP grew stronger and, in the 1994 elections during President Clinton’s first term, took control of both the House and Senate, though by margins too slim to exert unrivaled power. In the House, leaders such as Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who were very conservative, gave no quarter to those who disagreed with them, even in their own party. They took hard-line positions and refused to compromise….

Democrats, crushed under Republican power, moved left and in 2006 returned to power in the House under liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. But they, too, found their majority too slim to govern efficiently. Neither party has the numbers to impose its will nor the inclination to make the kinds of compromises that lead to landmark legislation.”

The main reason stalemate remains is because of the filibuster. Because Democrats control the Senate by only a 51 to 49 margin, Republicans despite being the minority, are refusing to compromise on most issues, thus preventing most legislation from passing.

As AARP notes:

“Senate rules provide for filibuster, a procedure that can prolong debate and requires 60 votes to stop. Historically it was rarely used—fewer than seven times a session in the 1960s. Now virtually any vote of consequence requires a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority to close off debate. Last year, minority Republicans used filibusters a record 78 times, nearly 50 percent more than the previous high of 42 in 2002, when Democrats were in the minority.”

So what’s the answer. AARP goes on to say:

Even the most inspirational presidential vision, oratory and leadership are unlikely to move major legislation. [Emory University Professor Meade]Black says it takes one party or the other accumulating enough seats in both houses of Congress to ram bills through on its own. Gridlock in the early 20th century ended in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democrats seized lopsided control of Congress (a 60-35 margin in the Senate and a 310-117 margin in the House).”It’s not the parties coming together, it’s one party moving into the position of being a governing majority,” Black says.

 

AARP goes on to quote former Senator Bob Graham as saying that “History tells us that bipartisanship is possible.” but I believe that the burden is on the Republicans to prove that point. I don’t agree with Graham’s optimism based on the recent Republican history. When they most recently controlled Congress they acted as bullies. I have heard both Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee repeat how under Republican leadership Democrats were excluded from helping to write legislation and they literally only saw bills right before they were to vote on them.

Bipartisan works only if you agree to share power and Republicans have done their damnest to ignore Democrats and legislate unilaterally when they were in power. And they are continuing to do all they can to obstruct Congressional action by increased use of the filibuster and the continued threat and use of a Bush veto. The only way to stop Republican obstructionism is to vote them out of office. And I think that is what the public is going to do come November.

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The U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 268 to 148 has passed the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Act of 2007. The struggle to achieve mental health parity with physical illness coverage has been going on for the last decade.

The bill is named after the late Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democratic Senator who died in a plane crash in 2002. Wellstone had pushed the legislation for many years.

The Associated Press carried the following reactions to the bill:

”It’s a historic step,” said the late senator’s son, David, 42. ”It’s a civil rights bill for people with mental illnesses and chemical addiction. It forces insurance companies to treat them as they treat others.” …

The House bill was sponsored by Reps. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who has battled depression, alcoholism and drug abuse, and Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., a recovering alcoholic who is Kennedy’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.

”It’s about opening up the doors and ending the shadow of discrimination against the mentally ill,” said Kennedy.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a longtime mental health advocate, said the bill would help erase the stigma of mental illness that prevents many people from seeking treatment.

 

The US Senate has previously passed a weaker version of the bill. The Senate bill was sponsored by Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s father, Senator Edward Kennedy and two Republicans – New Mexico Senator Pate Dominici and Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi. Senator Dominici has a daughter who has schizophrenia.

The House and Senate bill now go to conference committee. The house bill specifically says that mental illnesses and addiction disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders would be covered under any plan offering mental health benefits. The Senate version is less specific and allows more variation in what would be covered.

The Bush White House opposes the House bill – even though Bush has in the past said he supported mental health parity. As usual words are easy for Bush and seem to mean little , his action and inaction tells the truth of his beliefs. Just like his inaction on global warming says more of where he is coming from than the few token utterances he has said about the need to do something about global warming. Words are cheap in the Bush White House.

see also New York Times , “House Approves Bill on Mental Health Parity

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