“Congress Shutdown Has Dems Feeling Emboldened, But Worried It May Last A While”


By Sam Stein

Nancy Pelosi, James Clyburn, Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Joseph Crowley

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats emerged emboldened Monday night from the breakdown in efforts to avert a government shutdown, confident that President Barack Obama had the political upper hand and would stand firm in future negotiations.

Just outside the House floor, many of those members lingered leisurely, even as the chamber took several largely party-line votes to fund the government while delaying aspects of Obamacare.

This was pure theater, they argued. And regardless of how Republicans arranged the stage, the ending wouldn’t change.

“I don’t blame the president for one second,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Huffington Post. “I wouldn’t negotiate this stuff either.”


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“Chances of averting government shutdown appear slim”


By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer

079 Capitol Hill United States Congress 1993
079 Capitol Hill United States Congress 1993 (Photo credit: David Holt London)

The chances of averting a partial shutdown of the federal government seemed to vanish Sunday as leading members of Congress blamed their opponents for being unwilling to come to an agreement on a spending bill keep government operations running.

The House voted late Saturday night to delay President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul for a year – a move which made it almost inevitable that a partial shutdown — which would idle tens of thousands of federal workers — will start Monday at midnight.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday that the Senate would reject two amendments the House passed late Saturday night – one to delay Obamacare for a year and another to repeal the tax on medical device manufacturers that was included in the Affordable Care Act.


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“Why a government shutdown could be a pricey proposition”


By Carrie Dunn, Political Reporter,NBC News

If past is prologue, a looming government shutdown could actually cost U.S. taxpayers money.  A lot of money.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 cost taxpayers $1.4 billion combined. Adjust for inflation and you’ve got $2 billion in today’s dollars.

Those two shutdowns lasted a total of 27 days, but there’s no telling how long the government could be shuttered this time around if Congress fails to act by Monday at midnight. Even shorter shutdowns have proven successful at draining government funds.

In the immediate aftermath of the first government shutdown in 1981, the most conservative estimate  – conducted by the General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office) — put the cost of shutting the government down for a single day at $8.2 million, or almost $21 million in  today’s dollars. A House panel later concluded that the day-long furlough cost taxpayers 10 times more than that.


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Bashir Live: Ari Melber Updates the Conversation on Voting Rights


Martin Bashir   |  July 17, 2013

Sensenbrenner key in Voting Rights Act fix

n_bash_5avoting_130717.video-260x195MSNBC host Ari Melber (“The Cycle”) joins Martin Bashir to explain why a Republican supporter of fixing the Voting Rights Act — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin – may be the linchpin to getting Congress to pass one.

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Lord, send us someone to lead us in a March on Washington . . .


Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream

Lord, send us someone to lead us in a march on Washington to take our country back from Washington power brokers who have robbed the people of  “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Bless us with a happy and prosperous future, again. Daily, Lord, you see Republicans dismantling the freedoms and rights our ancestors fought and died for. The GOP plots to take over government from coast to coast and take food out of the mouths of the poor, take jobs from the downtrodden, take the right to vote from the black man, take away the right of women to make their own decisions about their bodies and reproductive life, to invalidate the belief that all men and women are equal, etc.  You gave us President Barack Obama who is fighting to protect us and make changes while working on the inside. Lord, we need a charismatic leader, black or white, who can inspire young and old to throw off their belief that “47 per cent”  of Americans don’t matter and begin to believe that if all of us little people pull together as one, we can rock Washington, DC and make the Congress work for the people again and once again adopt negotiation as the touchstone for solving problems creating good and just law. Lord, this war on women and other minorities must stop!  Gays and lesbians are Your children, too. Lord, You saw all the evil and ugliness of the last election.  We need Your divine help, Jesus, to make America, America again.  Your grateful and faithful believers ask for these blessings in Your name.  Amen.  [G.O.W.]

praying hands

“Do we still need help from Congress on jobs?”


By @SuzyKhimm

When President Obama sent his jobs plan to Congress in 2011, he warned that a failure to act would stomp on the recovery. “It’s not okay at a time of great urgency and need across the country,” he said at the time. “Folks are out of work. Businesses are having trouble staying open.”

Congress voted the $447 billion bill down and has since done more to hurt the economy than help it, dragging the country through one self-imposed budget crisis after another. But in spite of it all, the economy has still made slow but steady progress as private hiring, consumer spending, and housing prices have all picked up.

So does it even matter whether Congress gets its act together or not, since the economy is improving anyway?

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, still believes there’s far more that the government can do to speed along the recovery. Next week, she’s planning to reintroduce a revamped version of Obama’s original jobs act to boost infrastructure spending, tax cuts, and the safety net, with a new provision that would reverse sequestration’s automatic spending cuts for fiscal years 2014 to 2021.

“We’re going to fight because people are unemployed, and we’re finding this is getting worse with sequestration,” said Wilson, who has 12 co-sponsors for the bill so far, as well as the blessing of the White House. “If we just say, ‘Oh, we’ll we’re not going to do anything,’ there’s no need for us to be here.”


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“Unproductive Congress: How stalemates became the norm in Washington DC”



By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News

A Congress already setting records for futility, a nation trying to absorb rapid transformation and a political system designed to slow the pace of change have led Washington D.C. into a gridlock.

The much-criticized 112th Congress – from 2011 to 2012 – was the least productive and least popular Congress on record, according to the available statistics.

Now six months in – highlighted by a string of legislative stalemates – the 113th Congress (2013-2014) is on track to match or even surpass those dubious distinctions.

After the last Congress saw its approval ratings drop to their lowest levels, aJune Gallup survey found that just 10 percent of Americans have confidence in the institution. That’s the lowest percentage Gallup ever measured for Congress on this question – or, for that matter, any other American institution, including the presidency, big business, the medical profession and public schools.

When it comes to productivity, only 15 legislative items have become law under the current Congress. That’s fewer than the 23 items that became law at this same point in the 112th Congress, which passed a historically low number of bills that were signed into law.

To many observers, these are signs of broken government, gerrymandered congressional districts and out-of-control partisanship on Capitol Hill.

But they’re also a reflection of divided government, especially during a time of profound and rapid social change.

“The country is pretty divided in a lot of different ways, and [Congress] not doing things reflects those divisions,” said John Samples, a political scholar at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.


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Rep. John Lewis almost lost his life fighting for voting rights for black people




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“Dems Set Wheels In Motion On Revising Voting Rights Act”


By Brian Beutler


The unusual nature of the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has created a kind of limbo for conservatives in southern states who want to flood their legislatures with voter ID laws and other disenfranchising policies, and thrown into Congress’ lap an unexpected issue that will have enormous ramifications for the 2014 elections and beyond.

Where this all ends, nobody knows, but we’re beginning to see how it starts.

Congressional Democrats are already setting wheels in motion to fix the damage the Court did to the Voting Rights Act, but they’re prepared for a long and complex haul.

Because Democrats only control one chamber of Congress, they’re effectively confined to beginning the process in the Senate, which is why early statements from Senate Dems refer to action they plan to take, while House Dems are stuck pressing Republicans to take the issue seriously.

But that’s enough to sketch out a roadmap by which they might successfully re-establish pre-clearance standards under Voting Rights Act.

“As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in a statement after the decision.

The initial hearings will begin after Congress returns from Fourth of July recess. But because of the complicated legal nature of the issue, a legislative fix will require a great deal of groundwork and careful drafting to assure it doesn’t run exceed Constitutional limits.


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“It’s Official: Student Loan Rates Will Double Monday”


By Shelby Bremer, Credit.com

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, discusses a graph and legislation to try and prevent the increase in the interest rates on some student loans during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 27, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, discusses a graph and legislation to try and prevent the increase in the interest rates on some student loans during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 27, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

More than 7 million students will see interest rates on their student loans double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on Monday, after the failure of Congress to pass legislation to prevent the automatic rate hike that they successfully deferred for a year last summer.

Despite the introduction of several bills to serve as a solution, lawmakers will leave for the week-long July 4 recess without implementing any of them, letting the July 1 deadline pass. Any students taking or renewing federal subsidized Stafford loans after that deadline can expect to pay, for example, an additional $3,000 on a $23,000 loan paid off over 10 years.

House Republicans passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act on May 23, a measure that ties student loan interest rates to market-based rates. This plan would have reset student loan rates every year depending on the rate on U.S. Treasuries, which Senate Democrats claimed was too uncertain and with a cap of 8.5 percent, could push rates even higher than 6.8 percent.


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