Posts Tagged ‘senate majority leader’

One Third of Americans Say Obamacare Had Negative Personal Impact

March 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Nearly sixty percent say they view the law unfavorably

Source: Kurt Nimmo

The results of a Rasmussen poll released on Monday show that a large number of Americans would have been better off without Obama’s mandatory healthcare plan.

Thirty three percent of respondents to the survey say the law has hurt them. Earlier this year, 29% said the law had negatively impacted their healthcare plans. Only 14% say they plan helped them. In January, that number stood at 16%, according to Rasmussen.

Nearly sixty percent say they view the law unfavorably, while those who favor it reached an all-time low of 36%.

Last week the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, claimed horror stories about the failures of Obamacare are not true. “There’s plenty of horror stories being told,” he said. “All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”

Reid’s remarks resulted in a firestorm of criticism leveled at the Nevada senator and added to the growing ire the mandatory healthcare law has created.

“These people across America, who are losing their insurance, whose jobs are being lost, are not making this up. And no amount of Harry Reid calling everybody a liar changes the facts,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said in response.

Missouri Senator Roy Blount said the plan has so far been a disaster in his state. “I guess you think the active imagination of Missourians is just running wild because they’re contacting our office constantly telling about higher premiums, higher deductibles, insurance they used to have that worked, and insurance that doesn’t work,” he said.

In addition to canceled policies and significantly higher premiums, the Congressional Budget Office discovered that Obamacare will result in small businesses paying higher rates.

Despite shutdown threat, House passes spending bill that delays Obamacare for one year

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Heat is building on balkanized Republicans, who are convening the House this weekend in hopes of preventing a government shutdown but remain under tea party pressure to battle on and use a must-do funding bill to derail all or part of President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

The House approved a spending bill early Sunday morning that would fund the government through Dec. 15, but tacked on amendments that would delay the federal health care law known as Obamacare for one year and repeal the medical device tax, a move that sets up a showdown with Senate Democrats and increases the probability of a government shutdown Tuesday.

The Obamacare delay amendment passed 231-192, and the vote on the medical device tax, which would help cover the costs of Obamacare, was 248-174. The House also unanimously passed a bill to fund the military in the event of a shutdown.

Congress must agree to a federal spending bill by Tuesday, or the federal government will partially close down until members can find a compromise solution. The Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate disagree over whether the bill should include the health care law. Last week, the House sent a spending bill to the Senate without Obamacare funding , and the Senate responded by returning the bill on Friday with the funding inserted.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Saturday after the Republicans announced their spending plan that the upper chamber would reject anything short of a bill identical to the one passed by the Senate, and the White House issued a statement saying that the president would veto the House bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling,” Reid said in a statement. “To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax.”

The White House also responded by reiterating the president’s call to pass a spending bill without riders attached.

“The President has shown that he is willing to improve the health care law and meet Republicans more than halfway to deal with our fiscal challenges, but he will not do so under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown.”

Before the vote Saturday, House Republicans held a private meeting where leaders presented the plan to delay Obamacare and listened to opinions from rank-and-file members. Lawmakers emerged from the meeting to say that the conference was united behind the proposal.

With a Republican conference full of conservative lawmakers with little interest in conceding to Senate Democrats on Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner faced a difficult choice. He could have either passed a funding bill with Obamacare amendments and risk a shutdown, or pass a “clean” bill like the Senate with help from House Democrats and risk facing the wrath of furious Republicans. He chose the former.

Now that the bill has passed the House, it will be sent to the Senate, which is scheduled to reconvene Monday afternoon.

“We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown,” House Republican leaders Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a joint statement.

The Senate bill that passed Friday would extend current spending levels only through Nov. 15. Democrats say that time frame would provide a month for Congress to pass a larger budget deal before the end of the year and replace the automatic, sequestration cuts now in effect.

Government Shutdown Imminent As Republicans Add “Obamacare-Delay” To Funding Bill

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Source: Zero Hedge

It appears investors (CDS markets, VIX, T-Bills anxiety) were on to something as each side in the  looming government shutdown debate seems mired in their own belief that the other has more to lose. House Republicans are aiming to hold a vote today on a bill to extend government funding through December 15th and ensuring the military gets paid on any shutdown, but…


And as the WSJ reports, Harry Reid has already stated that “we are going to accept nothing as it related to Obamacare,” before adjourning the Senate until Monday afternoon (narrowing the gap for a shutdown-avoidance vote). The shutdown-blame-game has begun as it seems the ball is back in the Senate’s court…




Via WSJ,

The strategy keeps House Republicans on a collision course with Senate Democrats. “We are going to accept nothing as it relates to Obamacare,” Mr. Reid said after the Senate approved its spending plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mr. Reid on Friday added to the pressure on the House by adjourning the Senate until Monday afternoon, narrowing the window of time for any last-minute legislative volleys between the chambers.

The president is now demanding that we increase the debt limit without engaging in any kind of bipartisan discussions about addressing our spending problem,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who gave the address on behalf of Republicans. “He wants to take the easy way out – exactly the kind of foolishness that got us here in the first place.”

If the House acts today and sends the measure to the Senate, fresh pressure will fall on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to call the Senate back in session quickly. Mr. Reid said Friday that the Senate would accept no changes or amendments to the funding bill it approved on Friday. He scheduled the Senate to return Monday afternoon, hard upon the Monday midnight deadline for Congress to come to agreement on a funding plan.


June 12, 2013 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked a vote on the border security amendment to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill offered by Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Grassley was pushing for an up-or-down vote by the Senate on his amendment, which would have required the border to be secured for six full months before any legalization of illegal immigrants in America began. Reid objected to Grassley’s motion, effectively implementing a 60-vote threshold that completely blocked any attempt at a fair vote on the amendment.

Grassley protested Reid’s plan, which the Senate Majority Leader laughed off. “I’m somewhat surprised at this request,” Reid said in response. “How many times have we heard the Republican Leader say on this floor and publicly that the new reality in the United States Senate is 60?”

So I just thought I was following the direction of the Republican Leader. I mean, this is what he said. That’s why we’re having 60 votes on virtually everything. And with this bill, with this bill, no one can in any way suggest this bill is not important and these amendments aren’t important. So, I care a great deal about my friend, the ranking member on this committee, but I object.

Grassley responded with fury to Reid’s obstruction. “Well, it’s amazing to me that the majority has touted this immigration bill process as one that is open and regular order, but right out of the box, just on the third day, they want to subject our amendments to a filibuster like a 60-vote threshold.”

“So I have to ask, who is obstructing now?” Grassley said. “There is no reason, particularly in this first week, at the beginning of the process, to be blocking our amendments with a 60-vote margin that’s required when you suppose there is a filibuster.”

Grassley said the Senate should “at least start out” the immigration process with “regular order.”

“Otherwise, it really looks like the fix is in and the bill is rigged to pass basically as it is,” Grassley said. “Bottom line, you should have seen how the 18 members of the Judiciary Committee operated for five or six days over a two-week period of time.”

“Everything was open, everything was transparent,” he explained. “There was a complete cooperation between the majority and the minority, and there is no reason why we can’t do that out here in the United States Senate right now and particularly at the beginning.”

“This is a very provocative act,” Grassley warned.

Grassley was not the only senator who expressed dissatisfaction with the process Reid was using on the Senate floor. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who voted in favor of the bill coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a floor speech that he is concerned votes on his amendments will be blocked as well.

“I was promised by leaders in the Gang of Eight they would work with me, that they would help me to get these things done,” Hatch said. “I consider those promises to be very important, and yet I’ve had some indication over the last few days that maybe they’re not going to work with me.”

“I don’t think anybody’s acted in better good faith than I have,” Hatch claimed. “As I’ve said, I’d like to support the bill, and make no mistake about it, I don’t want people stiffing me on things I consider to be important without even talking, without even working with me to resolve any problems they may have. And, I’m not the kind of guy who takes that lightly.”

Hatch went on to say he thinks there is “too much partisanship around here anyway.”

“If this is going to be a political exercise, count me out,” Hatch said. “If this is an exercise to really try and resolve the amnesty issues, if it’s an exercise to really really try and resolve these critical issues, I can be counted in.”

“Maybe I don’t mean that much in this debate, but if you look at some of the major sections of this bill, I helped work them out and I’ll help work out this bill not only with colleagues on this side but with colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill. And I don’t want to be stiffed at this time and I’m not the kind of guy who takes stiffing lightly,” Hatch warned.

Obama Demands Vote On 2nd Amendment During Hartford Speech

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Source: Kurt Nimmo

Barack Obama traveled to Hartford, Connecticut on Monday and delivered a speech calling for a vote on the Second Amendment. He lashed out at Republicans who plan to resist attempts by Congress to destroy the right to bear firearms.

“Some folks in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms,” Obama said. “They’re not just saying they’ll vote no on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions.”

Obama’s use of the phrase “political stunts” is a reference to the possibility of a Senate filibuster to stop legislation.

On March 22, Republican senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stating their intention to oppose any legislation threatening to destroy the constitutional right to bear arms.

“We, the undersigned, intend to oppose any legislation that would oppose on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance,” the letter states. “The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ right to self-defense. It speaks to history’s lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history’s warning about the oppression of a government that tries.”

The establishment media, led by the New York Times, has launched a campaign to portray Paul and more than a dozen other senators concerned about the future of the Constitution as obstructionists.

“The gun lobby is spreading the pernicious falsehood that a background check will lead to a gun registry, and a registry will lead to a knock on the front door by a government SWAT team intent on confiscating the nation’s weapons. Mr. Paul and the other signatories who share this belief have promised to filibuster that bill. And given his newfound interest in the dramatic arts, he is probably planning to perform in another C-Span marathon in the weeks to come,” the Time editorialized as Obama gave his speech in Hartford.

Chris Matthews and Rev. Al Sharpton told MSNBC’s diminished audience that most Americans want universal background checks – and hence registration and ultimately firearm confiscation – and demanded Republicans put aside their “partisanship” and allow Democrats in Congress to vote on a bill that will strike a blow to the cornerstone of the Constitution.

Matthews admitted MSNBC has consistently waged a war against the Second Amendment. “I think MSNBC and you and I and a bunch of other people on this network have been keeping up the fight for gun safety” since the Sandy Hook massacre, “not just a few times but consistently every night,” he said.


Feinstein’s Gun Ban Bill Crumbles

March 19, 2013 Leave a comment

California Democrat and influential senator Dianne Feinstein admitted Monday her gun ban proposals will not be part of a Democrat bill to rollback the Second Amendment.

“My understanding is it will not be [part of the base bill],” Feinstein said. “It will be separate.”

Feinstein was told by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the decision. Feinstein’s bill proposed making illegal 157 models of semiautomatic firearms Democrats characterize as “assault weapons” and outlaw so-called “high-capacity” magazines.

In addition to endangering the larger and more comprehensive Democrat package, Feinstein’s measures would jeopardize red-state Democrats during the 2014 elections.

Senate Judiciary Democrats have approved what they describe as a gun trafficking bill, a measure to expand background checks, and a proposal to increase school safety following the shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut.

The gun trafficking proposal and its “straw purchase” prohibition has Republican support. Democrats plan to use it as a foundation and add amendments to the bill, possibly including some of the stripped Feinstein measures.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy will reportedly introduce the legislation on the Senate floor this week. It is believed he will schedule the bill for a vote in April following a two week congressional recess.

REPORT: Senate plan to omit weapons ban sought by Obama

February 4, 2013 Leave a comment

(CNN) — President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated his call for a comprehensive package of steps against gun violence as the focus on possible Senate legislation appeared to narrow to expanded background checks and limited ammunition magazines, rather than a ban on semi-automatic rifles that mimic assault weapons.

Obama took part in a discussion with Minneapolis officials before telling police officers and others that an increase in gun violence nationwide, including the Connecticut school massacre in December, made it vital to address the issue now.

“No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe,” Obama said in calling for “basic, commonsense steps to reduce gun violence.”

He added, “if there’s one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try.”

Obama emphasized his support for banning semi-automatic rifles modeled after military weapons as part of an updated version of an earlier weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Opponents led by the influential National Rifle Association, oppose any ban on weapons, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that such a provision faced an uphill struggle.

Reid told ABC on Sunday that he backed expanding background checks to private gun sales at shows and other steps, but he refused to endorse a ban on what are called assault-style rifles modeled after military weapons.

Obama shooting image gets blasted on the Web

A popular version is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that can be purchased with magazines holding 30 rounds. A similar weapon was used in the Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 first graders and revived a national focus on tougher gun control measures.

While Obama and some top Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, seek a ban on many semi-automatic rifles, the NRA and politicians from both major parties oppose such a move as an infringement on constitutional rights.

In his remarks Monday, Obama rejected that argument, urging supporters to tell opponents of renewed weapons ban that “there’s no legislation to eliminate all guns; there’s no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment.”

Obama’s trip to Minneapolis was intended to raise attention to steps taken in the city, including a recent regional gun summit hosted by Mayor R.T. Rybak and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Both cities have experienced mass shootings in recent months, and Obama met with two Minneapolis-area law enforcement officials last week when he discussed the issue with local police and sheriffs department members at the White House.

The NRA and its leading supporters in Congress argue that steps proposed by Obama won’t work and would fail to address the problem.

For example, they say criminals skirt background checks, so expanding the system would miss the main target of the legislation. They also contend that the semi-automatic rifles targeted by Feinstein in a proposal introduced last week are used in a fraction of the nation’s gun violence.

Gun debate: Where is the middle ground?

Obama and other supporters of stronger gun control measures say all possible efforts must be made to address what they call a chronic and growing problem of gun violence, particularly involving vulnerable targets such as students.

Reid of Nevada is the top Senate Democrat, who sets the chamber’s legislative schedule. He said Sunday that he wants the Judiciary Committee to produce a bill that could be debated by the full Senate and would be open to proposed amendments by any senator.

However, Reid signaled that the committee version would lack the ban on assault-style weapons.

“If Dianne Feinstein, by the time it’s through the Judiciary Committee, if she doesn’t have her assault weapons, at least let her have an opportunity to offer this amendment” on the Senate floor, Reid told ABC.

Reid, who noted he owned guns and was a former law officer, said he opposed the Clinton-era assault weapons ban that expired midway through the Bush administration.

He called for expanding background checks and steps to halt federal gun trafficking while saying the Senate should “take a look at” unspecified limits on ammunition magazines.

Asked about backing he has received from the NRA, Reid said that “just because they resist it doesn’t mean we can’t do things.”

Other steps under consideration include better monitoring of people with mental illness to prevent them from obtaining guns.

Democrats have said the background check measure would stand the best chance of garnering bipartisan support, including from some pro-gun Democrats. Even if passed by the Senate, a gun bill would face tougher scrutiny in the Republican-led House.

Obama said Monday that lawmakers in Congress from both parties were working together on plans that would expand background checks to all gun purchases and criminalize “straw purchases” in which legal gun owners buy weapons for people prohibited from doing so.

The faces of America’s gun debate

Guns sold through private sales currently avoid background checks — the so-called gun show loophole.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said last week that he was in talks with colleagues — including several who are ranked highly by the NRA — on possible legislation to expand background checks on private gun sales.

Sources close to both Schumer and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma told CNN the two were in serious discussions about co-sponsoring a bill to strengthen background checks. Schumer sits on the Judiciary Committee, while Coburn is a former member.

However, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre told the panel that the current background check system doesn’t work, so expanding it would only create an unmanageable government bureaucracy instead of reducing gun crime.

During the Super Bowl on Sunday night, a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns broadcast an ad showing the NRA’s LaPierre, in 1999, endorsing the expanded background checks his group now opposes.

Supporters of gun control argue that the constitutional right to bear arms can be limited, for example, by the existing ban on private citizens possessing grenade launchers and other military weaponry.

However, Denver University law professor David Kopel said last week that the Supreme Court made clear that gun control could not include weapons used commonly by law-abiding citizens, such as the top-selling AR-15 that Feinstein’s legislation would ban.

Senate leader may allow vote on assault weapons ban

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) walks to his office at the U.S. Capitol after returning from a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington December 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mary Calvert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons.

Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives was unlikely to go along with such a prohibition.

But after a weekly meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters he expects “to have a free amendment process” on gun legislation.

That process could result in other Democrats proposing a possible resurrection of a 10-year ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004.

A series of shootings in the last two months, including one at an elementary school in Connecticut in which 20 children and six staff were killed, has triggered a renewed debate on gun control.

President Barack Obama proposed a package of measures last week to combat gun violence that includes a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, expanded mental health treatments and improved school security.

Powerful gun-rights groups oppose a ban on assault weapons and could seek to unseat any lawmaker who backs it, as they have tried to do in the past.

Reid said he expects the Senate Judiciary Committee, which opens hearings next week on proposals by Obama and others, to produce a bill. It is unclear if the measure will include a ban on assault weapons.

“It may not be everything everyone wants. But I hope it has stuff that is really important,” Reid told reporters.

In a speech in Reno, Nevada, on Tuesday night, Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association gun lobby, accused Obama of trying to take away fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed to Americans under the U.S. Constitution.

“They are God-given freedoms. They belong to us in the United States of America as our birthright. No government gave them to us and no government can ever take them away,” he told a hunting and conservation convention.

“That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semi-automatic firearms technology. We believe that if neither the criminal nor the political class and their bodyguards and their security people are limited by magazine capacity, we should not be limited in our capacity either.”

LaPierre also repeated opposition to expanded background checks for purchases of firearms proposed by Obama.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro and David Brunnstrom; editing by Fred Barbash and Christopher Wilson)


December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

(Reuters) - With only a week left before a deadline for the United States to go over a “fiscal cliff,” lawmakers played a waiting game on Monday in the hope that someone will produce a plan to avoid harsh budget cuts and higher taxes for most Americans from New Year’s Day.

Though Republicans and Democrats have spent the better part of a year describing a plunge off the cliff as a looming catastrophe, the nation’s capital showed no outward signs of worry, let alone impending calamity.

The White House has set up shop in Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

The Capitol was deserted and the Treasury Department – which would have to do a lot of last-minute number-crunching with or without a deal – was closed.

So were all other federal government offices, with Obama having followed a tradition of declaring the Monday before a Tuesday Christmas a holiday for government employees, notwithstanding the approaching fiscal cliff.

Expectations for some 11th-hour rescue focused largely on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, in part because he has performed the role of legislative wizard in previous stalemates.

But McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2014, was shunning the role this year, his spokesman saying that it was now up to the Democrats in the Senate to make the next move.

“We don’t yet know what Senator Reid will bring to the floor. He is not negotiating with us and the president is out of town,” said McConnell’s spokesman, referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat. “So I just don’t know what they’re going to do over there,” he said.

Two-day-old tweets on leadership websites told the story insofar as it was visible to the public.

House Speaker John Boehner’s referred everyone to McConnell. McConnell’s tweet passed the responsibility along to Obama, saying it was a “moment that calls for presidential leadership.”

Reid’s tweet said: “There will be very serious consequences for millions of families if Congress fails to act” on the cliff.

The next session of the Senate is set for Thursday, but the issues presented by across-the-board tax hikes and indiscriminate reductions in government spending, were not on the calendar.

The House has nothing on its schedule for the week, but members have been told they could be called back at 48 hours notice, making a Thursday return a theoretical possibility.

However, aides to the Republican leaders in Congress said there were no talks with Democrats on Monday and none scheduled after negotiations fell off track last week when Boehner failed to persuade House Republicans to accept tax increases on incomes of more than $1 million a year.

“Nothing new, Merry Christmas,” an aide to Boehner responded when asked if there was any movement on the fiscal cliff.

But a senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said White House aides were talking with Senate Democratic staffers about the situation.


If there is some last-minute legislation, Republicans and Democrats agreed on Sunday news shows that it will not be any sort of “grand bargain” encompassing taxes and spending cuts, but most likely a short-term deal putting everything off for a few weeks or months, thereby risking a negative market reaction.

A limited agreement would still need bipartisan support, as Obama has said he would veto a bill that does not raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

On Monday, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison urged fellow Republicans to be flexible.

“We’re now at a point where we’re not going to get what we think is right for our economy and our country because we don’t control government. So we’ve got to work within the system we have,” she told MSNBC.

Two bills in Congress could conceivably form the basis for a last-minute stopgap measure.

Last spring, Republicans in the House passed a measure that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, reflecting the party’s deep reluctance to increase taxes.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill in August, extending lower tax rates for everyone except the wealthiest Americans – a group defined at that point as households with a net income of $250,000 or above. Obama has since increased that to $400,000 a year, in an effort to win Republican support.

Analysts say Democrats might be able to get the backing of enough Republicans in both the House and Senate, especially if they are willing to raise the number to $500,000.

Under that scenario, lawmakers might also put off spending cuts of $109 billion that would take effect from January and agree to Republican demands for cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the government-run health insurance plans for seniors and the poor.

However, with only a few work days left in Congress after Christmas, there is a good chance that no deal can be worked out and tax rates would then go up, at least briefly, until an agreement is reached in Washington.

“We may go off the cliff on January 1, but we would correct that very quickly thereafter,” Democratic Representative John Yarmuth told MSNBC.

The prospects of the United States going over the fiscal cliff dampened enthusiasm on Wall Street for a “Santa rally” in the holiday season, when stocks traditionally rise.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 51.76 points, or 0.39 percent, in Monday’s shortened holiday session.

Failure to work out tax rates in the coming days would cause chaos at the Internal Revenue Service, said analyst Chris Krueger of Guggenheim Securities.

“Next weekend is going to be a total, total debacle,” he said. The IRS is unlikely to have enough time to revise its tables for withholding taxes.

“The withholding tables are sort of like an aircraft carrier, you can’t turn the thing on a dime.” he said.

Senate Dems defend administration’s right to take guns away from veterans

December 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Source: The Washington Times

A major defense-spending bill hit an unexpected bump on its journey through the U.S. Senate over an amendment on veterans’ gun rights, which devolved into a heated floor debate and foreshadows a potential battle over Democrats’ vows to tweak the filibuster rules in the clubby, traditionally collegial body.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, wants veterans who have been deemed “mentally incompetent” to have their cases adjudicated by a judge — rather than the Department of Veterans Affairs, as happens currently — and argued that veterans who simply cannot support themselves financially are needlessly given the label and, as such, cannot buy or possess firearms.

“We’re not asking for anything big,” Mr. Coburn said Thursday evening on the Senate floor. “We’re just saying that if you’re going to take away the Second Amendment rights … they ought to have it adjudicated, rather than mandated by someone who’s unqualified to state that they should lose their rights.”

The late-night tussle served to pick at the scab of the ongoing debate over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bid to reform the chamber’s filibuster rules to place limits on the minority party’s ability to hold up debate on legislation, however.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, objected to Mr. Coburn’s proposal once he found out it was part of a package of amendments to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act the body was to vote on.

“I love our veterans; I vote for them all the time, they defend us,” Mr. Schumer said. “But if you are mentally ill, whether you’re a veteran or not, just like if you’re a felon, if you’re a veteran or not, and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.”

After a similar plea from Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, and a warning from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that the move could embolden Democrats’ push for filibuster reforms, Mr. Coburn eventually backed off.

“There’s more here, frankly, than just a refusal to allow an amendment,” Mr. McCain said. “That is going to mean that it’s more likely that we have this showdown, which we think — many of us think — would be devastating to this institution and the way that it’s done business for a couple of hundred years.”

The quarrel over the broader bill and the filibuster continued on the Senate floor Monday when Mr. McCain dinged Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, when he alluded to Mr. Paul’s previous threats to filibuster the bill if there was not a vote on an amendment to ensure a trial to American citizens accused of terrorism. That provision was approved by the Senate last week.

The measure that sparked last week’s late-night imbroglio is also part of a still-pending sportsman’s bill that the Senate declined to vote on last week. Similar legislation has been proposed in past years, and a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs unanimously in September.

The debate on the measure should not be about gun control, but about veterans’ mental health, said Tom Tarantino, senior legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“If even one person will not go to seek the help they need and they fall through the cracks because we failed to remove the mental health stigma as much as possible, then we’ve failed,” he said. “Right now, what happened is someone pulled the thread of politics in something that should not political. And that thread’s starting to unravel.”

But Brian Malte with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said simply that if Mr. Coburn’s amendment passes, more than 100,000 people deemed medically incompetent would immediately be able to purchase guns. He also noted that the declaration is not absolute.

“There is due process,” Mr. Malte said. “Gun possession is allowed if competency is restored. It’s up to the professionals to make that determination.”

The 1993 Brady Bill established a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ enforcement regulations declared that those deemed mentally defective could not purchase or possess a firearm.

The Department of Veterans Affairs forwards the names of those labeled mentally incompetent to the FBI for inclusion in a national federal database, barring them from purchasing or carrying firearms.



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