Saturday, June 15, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 20 - "The Stall"

"The Stall"
Will GOP delaying tactics torpedo Immigration Reform? Will student loan interest rates be allowed to double? Will the 'stall' last until the 2014 mid-terms..or the 2016 presidential election? Also this week -- MSNBC 'gets it' and will broadcast live from the annual festival hosted by Essence Magazine this July in New Orleans.

Immigration Reform Delay Game

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration reform in the East Room of the White House, June 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Calling this time period, "The best chance we've had in years to fix our broken immigration system," President Obama again called on Congress to pass the bi-partisan Immigration Reform bill.

During the East Room address (transcript here), the President was surrounded by business and government leaders including:
  • Tom Donohue, President and CEO, US Chamber of Commerce
  • Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution LLC
  • Carlos Gutierrez, former Secretary of Commerce
  • Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
  • Adrian Garcia, Sheriff, Harris County, TX
  • William Bratton, former Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department
  • Julian Castro, Mayor, San Antonio, TX
  • Margaret Mims, Sheriff, Fresno County, CA
  • Mary Kay Henry, International President, SEIU
Last but not least, the President was introduced by Tolu Olubunmi, a young woman DREAMer originally from Lagos, Nigeria, who has lived in the United States since age 14. Olubunmi graduated at the top of her class with degrees in chemistry and engineering. She stated:
“I’m a DREAMer. I’ve lived in the U.S. for the past 18 years. This is my home, first and foremost. And I have a chemical engineering degree, one that’s collecting dust and desperately wants to be used to support our economy, to grow our economy. I want to be all that I can possibly be in this great nation that I love. And the way to get there for me, and for millions of others like me, is through immigration reform. It’s good for families. It’s good for me -- it’s good for DREAMers. It’s good for our economy. It’s good for our nation as a whole. And it’s really important that we stand strong and stand together and pursue common-sense immigration reform that really does speak to our American values.”

This week the bill will be debated in the Senate. Time is of the essence with the August recess approaching. Policymic sums it up:
"Why bring up August? That’s when Congress will go on its summer recess. It’s darn near impossible to see Congress taking this up after the recess as some House Republicans face 2014 midterm reelection challenges....
Here’s what you can expect, delays and procrastination by both sides on substantive parts of the bill. House Republicans simply do not want to pass comprehensive reform, the leaders of the Gang of 8 say that there just isn’t any other way to get it done. A go-slow approach is a way for Republicans in the House to avoid attaching their names to parts of immigration reform they don't want to be associated with. It's going to be extremely difficult to talk some of them, especially the ones facing election, to agree to comprehensive reform."
Will the immigration reform bill be stalled or will Republicans who understand the importance of the Hispanic vote break rank?

Student Loan Rates to Double

If there is no action by Congress (a familiar phrase these days), student loan rates are set to double on July 1. Specifically, rates on subsidized Stafford loans, which will go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. These loans are given to students with financial need. Only NEW LOANS will see this doubling of rate.

The Washington Post's Wonkblog by Dylan Matthews explains how we got here:

"This all started in 2007, when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (R-Calif.) put together the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which gradually reduced the subsidized rate from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the course of four years, with 3.4 reached in 2011. But for budgetary reasons that had to sunset. Originally it was going to expire in 2013, which was moved to 2012 as part of a compromise with Republicans.
In 2012, both Mitt Romney and President Obama lobbied Congress to extend the low rates, which it did at the end of June. But they only extended them a year, so they’re due to expire again in a couple weeks." the run up to the election there was an extension...this year??

Both houses of Congress, as well as both parties, AND the White House, all have plans to tackle this issue. As described in the article, some want fixed rates, others want variable rates tied to indicators such as the US Treasury rate, or as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) suggests, the rate banks pay for borrowing.
"A Democratic plan, supported by Obama, to extend the 3.4 percent rate for two years got 51 votes and couldn’t break a filibuster. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has somewhat confusingly proposed setting the rate at 0.75 percent for a year, to replicate the overnight penalty rate that the Federal Reserve charges banks for emergency loans."
The clock is ticking.  Will this go the way of the Sequester?  (Does anyone remember the Sequester?)

A Time When Leaders Took Action

For history buffs and those who want to know more about the founders of our nation, there is now a treasure trove of data available online as introduced by

"What was the original intent behind the Constitution and other documents that helped shape the nation? What did the Founders of our country have to say? Those questions persist in the political debates and discussions to this day, and fortunately, we have a tremendous archive left behind by those statesmen who built the government over 200 years ago."

The website is called Founders Online and is described as:

"CORRESPONDENCE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF SIX MAJOR SHAPERS OF THE UNITED STATES: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Over 119,000 searchable documents, fully annotated, from the authoritative, federally funded Founding Fathers Papers projects."

Look over some of the letters and appreciate a time when letter-writing was an art form.  Long form communication was the norm. Not the 140 characters or less we use today to communicate.

There are gems in these documents. They tell us more about our country's founding fathers than the history books.  Such as these words from Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Abigail Adams on February 22, 1787: "I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere."

This is a wonderful project from the National Archives and the University of Virginia Press.  Here is their summary of what the collection includes:
"Now, for the first time, users can freely access the written record of the original thoughts, ideas, debates, and principles of our democracy. You will be able to search across the records of all six Founders and read first drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the spirited debate over the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the very beginnings of American law, government, and our national story. You will be able to compare and contrast the thoughts and ideas of these six individuals and their correspondents as they discussed and debated through their letters and documents."
It would take quite awhile to read through all of the documents...but some of them could be good summer reading! 

Perhaps one day future generations will read the tweets of today's political leaders.

MSNBC 'Gets It'

There is no doubt African-American women (a huge voting bloc for the Democratic party) will play a pivotal role in the upcoming presidential election, just as we did in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Cable news giant MSNBC gets it! In 2012 the network grew it's African-American viewership by 60.5% and remains a top draw in the black community with a diverse line-up of on-air talent that includes: Tamron Hall, TourĂ©, Melissa Harris-Perry, Rev. Al Sharpton, Joy Reid, Goldie Taylor, Karen Finney, Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, Michael Steele, Eugene Robinson, and Jonathan Capehart.

Maybe this is why MSNBC will be broadcasting LIVE from the Essence Festival (hosted by Essence Magazine and formerly called the Essence Music Festival) coming up in New Orleans this July. 

Here is the line-up MSNBC announced:

Friday, July 5: “Now with Alex Wagner” will air at noon ET followed by “Hardball” at 1 p.m. ET., “NewsNation” at 2 p.m. ET, “PoliticsNation" at 3 p.m. ET and then “The Ed Show” at 4 p.m. ET.

Saturday, July 6: “Melissa Harris Perry” will air from 10 a.m. to noon ET followed by “The Ed Show” at noon ET and then “PoliticsNation” at 1 p.m. ET.

Sunday, July 7: “Melissa Harris Perry” from 10 a.m. to noon ET then “The Ed Show” from noon to 1 p.m. ET and finally “PoliticsNation” from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET.

In addition, the following MSNBC 'stars' will be participating in seminars and 'meet-and-greets' -- Reverend Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Ed Schultz, Melissa Harris-Perry, Alex Wagner, Tamron Hall, Joy-Ann Reid, Toure, and Mara Schiavocampo.

If you can't make it to New Orleans, watch the coverage on TV. 


President Obama's First Term
A Look Back at Week 20 - 2009:

(Excerpts from my blog National Scene -- Week 20)

6/9-6/16/2009:  Health care reform continues to be front and center on the President’s radar screen, and this week he went to somewhat hostile territory—the annual conference of the American Medical Association—to pitch his ideas. The Administration continues to address America’s economic situation, while keeping abreast of troubling events abroad, particularly North Korea’s nuclear threats, and the disputed election in Iran.
  • Banks Return Bailout Funds: “A Positive Sign.” The Administration announced that several of the financial institutions, which received bailouts from the federal government, are ready to repay the funds. While acknowledging that the economic crisis is by no means over, the President applauded the return of the funds, saying, “Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it’s worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit.”
  • United Nations Sanctions North Korea’s Nuclear Testing. UN Ambassador Susan Rice, (the first African-American female to hold the post), joined world leaders in condemning recent actions by North Korea and imposing sanctions against the country. She described the unanimous resolution as “a very robust, tough regime with teeth that will bite North Korea.” 
  • Obama Addresses Doctor’s Group. President Obama took his health care vision directly to one of the special interest groups most associated with health care – the American Medical Association. The group warmly received the President although some bristled at his suggestion of not reducing malpractice payments to deserving beneficiaries. There was general agreement however on his description of what will happen if we fail to act on health care reform.

And Finally.....back to 2013:

Manhood FIRST....Fatherhood SECOND.

President Barack Obama talks with students from the Becoming A Man (BAM) program, in the Oval Office following the Father's Day luncheon at the White House, June 14, 2013. The President held a roundtable with the BAM students in Chicago earlier this year. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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