Thursday, December 6, 2012

Senator, Interrupted... Or Just Plain Torn?

In case you were wondering if I totally missed this story, rest assured that I didn't. It's just taken me a while to have the time to finally get to it. But thankfully, Desert Beacon has already been on it.

A treaty needs a 2/3rds majority to be ratified by the Senate and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) donned his tin foil chapeau to join fellow conspiracy theorists in the failure of the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Disabled. What could possibly have gone wrong with a Treaty based on U.S. statutes, negotiated by the Bush Administration, and supported by 300 disability advocacy organizations, 21 veterans organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Wounded Warriors Project? What might be controversial about a convention signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126? Paranoia? [...]

Merciful Heavens, we (according to the Chamber of Commerce) must do nothing to facilitate access to business and commerce, or to enhance the prospects of persons with disabilities — if it might in any way encroach on the corporate bottom line!

So, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) a disabled veteran of the Viet Nam War, and with former Senator and GOP standard bearer Robert Dole (KS) a disabled veteran from World War II looking on… Senator Dean Heller joined the Tin Foil Hat Crowd, while genuflecting to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and voted against ratification of the convention. Shame.

So for all the talk of a "kinder, gentler, moderate" Dean Heller, it didn't take him long to revert to his "tea party" ways.

What made that whole embarrassing display even more eye-popping is that it happened right in the thick of "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations. And Congressional Republicans seem to be toying with even more extremism. For goodness sake, US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) even filibustered his own bill to raise the debt ceiling!

Here's what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Badass) had to say about this.

“The Senate should pass Senator McConnell’s proposal to give the President the authority to avoid the knock-down, drag-out fight we had over the debt ceiling last year – a fight that caused the first-ever downgrade of this country’s credit, and cost our economy billions. Senator McConnell’s filibuster prevented us from having this vote today, but I will continue to seek an agreement to hold an up-or-down vote on his proposal to avoid another debt ceiling debacle.

“After leading three hundred and eighty five filibusters in recent years, Senator McConnell took obstruction to new heights by filibustering his own bill. Republicans’ obstruction and intransigence turned the last debt ceiling fight into a disaster for the middle-class. We should give American families the security of knowing we will never go through such a harmful ordeal again.”


But you know what? He has a point. Our country was perilously close to catastrophe last year. And why? Well, the teabaggers wanted to essentially force feed America extreme austerity and wreck the economy (even more).

So now, we may be back to this? Maybe not. And President Obama may have some new allies in preventing another debt debacle.

I’ve just learned that one of the most influential business groups in Washington, the Business Roundtable, is prepared to support a provision designed to dramatically minimize the possibility of another standoff now and in the future —one also supported by the White House. This is a step forward for White House efforts to prevent a 2011-style battle, which led to a credit downgrade for the United States, and widespread fears that the country would go into default.

Obama —who is refusing to negotiate over the debt ceiling again —supports a measure called the “McConnell provision,” a proposal pushed by Mitch McConnell last year to try to defuse the crisis. Under the provision, the president can request a debt limit hike, after which Congress can vote to deny the request by disapproving of it. The president can then veto that request, and unless Congress overrides that veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses, it is honored. The provision transfers most control over the debt ceiling to the President and makes it far harder for the opposing party in Congress to block hikes —meaning the constant threat of default, and the ability to engage in brinksmanship around it, are effectively removed. [...]

This underscores the rising determination among business leaders —many of whom are aligned with the GOP —to avoid a rerun of the 2011 debacle. Obama is aggressively lobbying these business leaders, publicly and privately, to make their opposition to another standoff known. And it appears that they are doing so. As Politico’s Ben White reports today, executives are privately beginning to coalesce around the McConnell provision as a means to that end.

The prospect of another debt ceiling fight puts the House GOP in an interesting spot, pitting its Tea Party wing against more pragmatic GOP-aligned interests in the business community. While the former will be spoiling for another fight, the latter appears far less willing to see the country dragged through another deeply damaging round of debt ceiling brinksmanship —with the full faith and credit of the United States, and the economy, at stake —this time around.

At least some corporate types are not stupid. They know the ramifications of another extended budget brawl, debt debacle, and "Fiscal Cliff" dive. But with other corporate funded "Tea Party, Inc." astroturf outfits demanding ideological purity "or else", Republicans are in a bind.

Perhaps this is best reflected in the recent words and actions of Dean Heller. On one hand, he talks of "coming together" for "bipartisan solutions". But on the other hand, he still votes with teabaggers' craziest wishes in mind.

So what will he ultimately do? And what will his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill do? Republican leaders know they have to reach a deal soon to save face. But at this point, will any deal be accepted by the "TEA" fueled base?

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