Tag: Mitch McConnell

The Russian Connection: Kentucky’s Catch 22

The Senate Majority Leader, Moscow Mitch, has put his home state, Kentucky, behind the proverbial 8 ball with his Catch 22 legislative maneuvering to secure a deal with a still sanctioned Russian aluminum oligarch, Oleg Derepaska. His economic treason has left his state’s legislature and the US Congress no room to reign in Russian interference …

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The Russian Connection: Moscow Mitch Pas de Deux With Putin

Last month, on the heels of Robert Mueller’s report and testimony before two House committees, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, formerly known as “The Human Hybrid Turtle,” blocked consideration of two bills that were aimed at protecting the US voting process and combating Russian interference. It earned him the new nickname “Moscow Mitch” that prompted …

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The Russian Connection: Moscow Mitch

Senate Majority leader Mitch “The Human-Hybrid Turtle” McConnell has a new moniker pinned on him by MSMBC’s host of “Morning Joe” and former Republican Joe Scarborough. During his morning show, Scarborough slammed McConnell for blocking two bills aimed at securing American elections and combatting Russian Interference in American elections yesterday on the heels of former …

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9/11: The Human-Hybrid Turtle v Jon Stewart

Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Human-Hybrid Turtle” McConnell (R-KY) offhandedly dismissed former host of “The Daily Show” and 9/11 first responder healthcare bill activist, Jon Stewart’s anger, wondering why he was “all bent out of shape” over the bill’s slow progress through congress. As Karoli Kuns, at Crooks and Liars, points out, “This isn’t life …

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The Russian Connection: McConnell and Deripaska, A Love Story

While everyone has been fixated on the Trump’s current temper tantrum and fight for abortion rights, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Putin’s “favorite industrialist”, Oleg Derispaska are having an affair in Kentucky. Kentucky might be going into business with the Russian mafia. Not the rough-and-tumble “Godfather” crowd with the bent noses and such …

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Republican Racism On Full Display

Last night, during the debate to confirm racist Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to be US Attorney General, the good Democratic senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard law professor, Elizabeth Warren was silenced when she started reading the late Coretta Scott King letter that opposed Sessions nomination to the federal court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch …

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No Meetings, No Hearings, No Vote. May Not Be A Bad Strategy For The Left

The Senate Republicans appear to be once again on the road to self destruction. GOPers Commit to the ‘Three Nos’, Josh Marshal, Talking Points Memo There’s nothing really different today than what Mitch McConnell committed Republicans to only hours after Justice Scalia’s death. But we now have a formal embrace of the ‘Three Nos’: No …

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The Thurmond Rule Or The Constitution

No sooner had the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death been announced when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let it be known that the Senate would not even consider hearings on his successor. In a swift statement designed to warn Barack Obama against even nominating a replacement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged …

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Congressional Game of Chicken: Compromise? Reached On Presidential Nominees

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Harry and the Democrats have once again backed off fixing the unconstitutional filibuster rule in the Senate that has allowed the minority party to stall everything from nominees to offices, the bench and passing legislation this session.

A tentative agreement to avert reforming filibuster on presidential nominees to administrative positions was reached during the night on an unusual private session between the two caucuses.

The deal, which was negotiated primarily between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was described by a Senate Democratic aide as one in which the Republican Party will allow votes to confirm the seven executive nominees, provided that Obama replaces his two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board with two other names. Those nominees would have a commitment “in writing” from GOP leadership to get a vote, the Democratic aide said.  [..]

Getting replacements for the NLRB nominees is, more or less, a face-saving measure for the GOP leadership. Republicans had argued that the nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were irrevocably tainted because Obama elevated them as recess appointments, which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Democrats countered that such taint would have been wiped away had Block and Griffin received a clean vote by the Senate. [..]

Under the proposed deal between the two parties, which the Democratic aide cautioned was “not final yet” as of 11:00 a.m., Reid would also retain the right to consider rules reform in the future. There are “no conditions or restrictions on future action whatsoever,” the aide said. Another aide confirmed that position.

According news reports from aids, Reid had stopped talking to minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, choosing instead to broker a deal through McCain.

The cloture vote on Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was taken late this morning, passing 79 – 29 thus ending the filibuster on his nomination. Final confirmation will take place later today.

There are some Democrats not satisfied with the tentative deal over Block and Gross:

Republicans have balked as the question to whether their recess appointments are constitutional awaits a Supreme Court decision this fall. Instead, Republicans are hoping to slot in two new Democratic-chosen NLRB members in place of Block and Griffin, a move sure to rile up the liberal wing of the party.

Democrats tried to come up with some potential replacement for Block and Griffin over the weekend, but have been unsuccessful up to this point. [..]

Some veteran Democrats, however, are standing by Block and Griffin, and are urging Reid and the White House not to cave to GOP pressure, as are labor leaders.

“If it’s a deal that somehow carves out Sharon Block and Richard Griffin from going on the NLRB, then I am going to be standing up. Because I think it would be grossly unfair to throw them out simply to make a deal,” declared Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Until the Supreme Court decides it, they have every right to be where they are.”

The Democratic leadership is concerned with threats made by Republicans that if they win the Senate in 2014, they would change the Senate rules in such a way as to completely block any presidential nominees and enable them to push though their agenda. The question is what is to stop them from doing this anyway? Does anyone really believe that a Republican led senate would tolerate a Democratic minority obstructing their agenda? Republicans have already threatened random acts of obstruction should Democrats exercise the option. But, truthfully, how much more obstructive can they get?

If the Democrats expect to get anything done or anyone confirmed to the bench before they lose their majority, they needed to do it now.  

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Is Back

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Once again Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is rumbling about reforming filibuster as the GOP minority continues to block confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees for key administration offices. On Thursday, Reid took to the floor of the senate slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for breaking his word on confirmations.

This latest confrontation is over seven pending nominees, including leaders for the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, a consumer protection agency and vacancies to a politically important labor law oversight board. While Republicans signaled a path to confirmation for the EPA and Labor nominees, the parties remained at loggerheads over Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McConnell objected to trying to confirm officials already on the board who were “unlawfully” appointed in a recess session. If the Senate fails to act on the nominees for the NLRB, it will cease to function at the end of August. The rules change that is being proposed would not effect judicial nominees which would still be subject to filibuster

McConnell shot back calling this stand off the “darkest days of the senate” and, on his campaign Facebook page posted an image of Reid’s tombstone with the words “Killed the Senate.” While Reid agreed to a closed door private conversation in the Old Senate Chambers with all the Senators, it was after a 75 minute private meeting with McConnell, that Reid emerged adamantly stating that he wanted the nominees approved, or the rules changed.

One of the proponents of reforming filibuster, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), circulated a memo to his Democratic colleagues on the history of filibuster, countering the Republican cries of that the rules change would be “unprecedented”:

“The notion that changing Senate procedure with a simple majority vote is ‘changing the rules by breaking the rules’ is an absolute falsehood,” reads the memo, which was provided to The Huffington Post. “Indeed, the Senate appears to have changed its procedures by simple majority … 18 times since 1977, an average of once every other year.”

Merkley Memo On Filibuster

Merkley is working with Reid, who appears to be more committed to reform this time. One anonymous aid advocating for reform said he believed that Reid had the 51 votes which could include Vice Pres. Joe Biden as the “51st” vote to break a tie.

Reid has called for a cloture vote on the nominees for next week. Being a skeptic about Reid’s leadership and his resolve in the past on reform, I’ll believe it when it happens.

Congressional Game of Chicken: Mitch and Harry, a Love Story

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It would seem by now that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) realized that the filibuster “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is as much of a farce as “bipartisanship.” Since Last January’s deal, the Republicans have filibuster two cabinet nominees, unprecedented in the past, blocked numerous judges and other nominees. Now a group led by Sen. Rand Paul, Mitch’s compatriot from the Blue Grass State, have threatened to filibuster a bill that hasn’t even been written.

Once again, Harry has tossed out another idle threat to fix the filibuster, this tilw by invoking the dreaded “nuclear option.” In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Harry said that “he has not ruled out altering Senate rules to speed up Senate judicial nominations.”

“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid says. [..]

“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid says. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”

E.J. Dionne makes some very salient points in his Washington Post op-ed, where he asks is this the end of majority rule? He points out three facts first that universal background checks are overwhelming supported by Americans; second, “the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials.” Third, “only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit.” Yet, congress has completely ignored these facts allowing the NRA and the minority deficit hawks of the far right to control what is debated in the House.

Dionne goes on to say:

In a well-functioning democracy, the vast majority of politicians – conservative, moderate and liberal – would dismiss such views as just plain kooky. But here is the problem: A substantial portion of the Republican Party’s core electorate is now influenced both by hatred of Obama and by the views of the ultra-right. Strange conspiracy theories are admitted to the mainstream conversation through the GOP’s back door – and amplified by another fight for market share among talk radio hosts and Fox News commentators.

That’s because the Republican Party is no longer a broad and diverse alliance but a creature of the right.[..]

And our Constitution combines with the way we draw congressional districts to over-represent conservatives in both houses. The 100-member Senate is based on two senators per state regardless of size. This gives rural states far more power than population-based representation would. The filibuster makes matters worse. It’s theoretically possible for 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the population to block pretty much anything.

The American people deserve better than this. There should be at least on functioning segment of the government that represents the people, that needs to be the Senate.

Harry, drop the bomb. Go for the nuclear option. Let Mitch squeal how his party has been wronged and how the Democrats will pay. Take the soap box away from the likes of radical loons like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Then pass approve some judges and nominees, pass bills the right wingers will hate but Americans will love. Tell President Obama that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts in the budget passed by the Senate. Tell the president that there will be a stimulus package to create jobs, an end to subsidies for oil companies and banks, as well as, tax reform and revenue increases.

Stand up to the right wing so-called Democrats, like Max Baucus, Harry. End your destructive “love affair” with Mitch. End filibuster.

I have a dream. Harry Reid could make it a reality.

A Half Billion Dollar Tax Gift to BioTech Company

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Unbeknownst to most of the legislators and public, tucked very neatly in section 632 (pdf) of the “fiscal cliff” bill, was provision that gave the world’s largest biotechnology firm, Amgen, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications, a half billion dollar gift that allows the company to evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients for two years. Meanwhile in December, Amgen had been fined  $762 million in civil and criminal penalties for illegal marketing of one of its other drugs. This pricing break would wipe out two thirds of those fines.

This undercover handout of taxpayer’s dollars during a so-called “fiscal crisis” was reported in depth by The New York Times investigative reporters, Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, who also revealed the “architects” of this giveaway, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch.

Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.

It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.

The measure flies in the face of attempts to curb the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to over-prescribe medication. But that didn’t deter the “three amigos” from sneaking in the provision to their generous benefactor:

Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.

What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.

Amgen has sent large donations to Glacier PAC, sponsored by Mr. Baucus in Montana, and OrrinPAC, a political action committee controlled by Mr. Hatch in Utah.

Not surprisingly when the news of this giveaway hit the paper, it enraged a bipartisan group of legislators to repeal this section.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) filed legislation this week to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen’s Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients. [..]

“Amgen managed to get a $500-million paragraph in the fiscal-cliff bill and virtually no one in Congress was aware of it,” Welch said. “It’s a taxpayer ripoff and comes at a really bad time when we’re trying to control healthcare costs. Amgen should not be allowed to turn Medicare into a profit center.” [..]

Other co-sponsors of the bill seeking repeal include House Republican Richard Hanna of New York and two House Democrats, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.

Rep. Welch sat down with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company to discuss Amgen’s “sweetheart deal”



The transcript can be read here

“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”

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