Politics August 29, 2014: Romney opens door, will it be Mitt vs Hillary Clinton in 2016 campaign?

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Romney opens the door, will it be Mitt vs. Hillary Clinton in 2016 campaign? 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 29, 2014, 12:11 PM MST

 Mitt Romney is leaving open a third run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Aug. 26, 2014; Romney told Hugh Hewitt high would consider a run under the right circumstances
Mitt Romney is leaving open a third run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Aug. 26, 2014; Romney told Hugh Hewitt high would consider a run under the right circumstances
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Politics August 27, 2014: McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

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McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 27, 2014, 3:30 PM MST

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers a speech to a group of donors at a Koch brothers event how a Republican Senate would act, and it would oppose every economic issue supported by President Barack Obama, June 5, 2014

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Senate¬†Minority Leader¬†Mitch McConnell, R-KY recently spoke on June 15, 2014, at a summit hosted by the Koch brothers in Dana Point, Calif.¬†which included an audience of millionaires and billionaires as part his campaign for reelection as the Senator from Kentucky. In his speech entitled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” The damaging elements of the speech have obtained The Nation and The Undercurrent who published a full-text transcript of the speech and the audio on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. McConnell attacked and stated his vehement opposition to President Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats economic agenda, making particularly mocking comments about the¬†unemployment¬†benefits extension and raising the minimum wage.

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Sen.¬†McConnell was courting donors at the event¬†called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” McConnell is facing one of the toughest¬†elections¬†in 30-year career against Democrat Kentucky’s Secretary of Alison Lundergan Grimes. They remain close in the polls with McConnell see slight leads. At stake in this midterm election is Republican control of the Senate and of Congress, and should McConnell win reelection he will most probably be voted in as Senate majority leader by his colleagues.

McConnell promised a¬†¬†Republican budget that would “shrink” government¬†spending, stating; “So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal¬†government, we’re going to go after it‚Ķ”

Those publications retained the speech’s audio after¬†McConnell gave an interview with Politico¬†about his plans to prevent Obama’s economic and social agenda if the Republicans gain control of the Senate in the midterm elections in November. So far most polls give the Republicans a slight lead over the Democrats and believe the GOP has a chance of acquiring the six seats necessary for a majority.

McConnell told Politico¬†about the GOP’s plans, saying; “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy. That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.” McConnell explained that Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.” Putting riders on spending bills as Politico points out threatens a government shutdown if Obama disagrees with the Republicans in Congress.

McConnell told the group of donors about¬†his opposition to the unemployment benefits extension, not stating the reason behind it is a difference of opinion on policy, but because he believes it is immoral. McConnell said; “And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage (inaudible)-cost the country 500,000 new¬†jobs; extending unemployment that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

Grimes attacked McConnell back on his position on two key economic issues important to the Democrats in the midterm elections campaign. Democrats have the most part stood behind President Obama’s economic opportunity program, which he has been promoting since his State of the Union address and signing executive orders and memorandums to make 2014 a year of economic action.¬†Grimes has campaign TV ads¬†pointing out that McConnell “vot[ed] 17 times against raising the minimum wage” and “12 times against extending unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.”

Republicans have long opposed the benefits extension, because they claim benefits perpetuate unemployment, thinking that those receiving the benefits do not want to work, but prefer taking what the Republicans consider the easy way taking benefits, free money. Recent studies contradict this assertion, concluding that unemployment especially in the long-term depressed Americans and they would prefer to work for any money they receive.

The EUC program which helped Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks expired on Dec. 28, 2013. One bill the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 authored by Senators Jack Reed, D-RI, and Dean Heller, R-NV co-authored and co-sponsored passed the Senate in April. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, however, failed to put the bill to a vote before its June 1, 2014, deadline, because it did not include job creation measures.

On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Reed and Heller unveiled a new bill, extending benefits for five months without a deadline and the retroactive element included in the first bill, but there is still no job creation measures. The House also introduced its own bipartisan unemployment extension bill co-authored and sponsored by Representatives Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ-02 and Dan Kildee, D-MI-05 and introduced on Wednesday afternoon, June 25, 2014. There has been no action in the House or Senate on either bill before the August Congressional recess.

Congressional Republicans vote against almost every economic bill supported by President Obama, and Congressional Democrats designed to help lower-income and middle-class Americans.¬†McConnell filibustered the very first incarnation¬†of the unemployment benefits extension bill authored by Reed and Heller on February 7 because it did not fund to offset the bill’s cost. McConnell also filibustered the bill to raise the minimum across the country to $10.10 at the end of April. McConnell also filibustered a bill authored by Elizabeth Warren in June to refinance student loan debt because it would raise taxes on the wealthy. His record is proving Democrats right that he is only serving the millionaires and billionaires he was courting.

Democrats in the Senate and the House still very much support the unemployment benefits extension. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV promises to still put the new Reed-Heller bill to a vote. The Senate returns, however, on Sept. 8 and Reid wants to recess for the midterm election campaign only two weeks later on Sept, 23 leaving little time to push through a vote. Still, as Learning and Finance point out, the Democrats might make the unemployment benefits extension as a campaign issue and push through the bill while they still have a majority and can.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

 

Politics August 24, 2014: Obama shifts from easing unemployment with benefits extension to job creation

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Obama shifts from easing unemployment with benefits extension to job creation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 24, 2014, 6:23 AM MST

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President Barack Obama delivers his weekly address on the US Export-Import Bank, job creation, and the recovering economy, Aug. 23. 2014

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The year 2014 started with the main issue revolving America’s¬†unemployment¬†and the expiration and renewal of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program and helped the long-term jobless, but now both¬†Congress¬†and President¬†Barack Obama¬†are emphasizing job creation as the¬†economy¬†recovers and the short-term unemployment rate falls. President¬†Obama used his weekly address¬†entitled “The Export-Import Bank” released on Saturday morning, August 23, 2014, to boast of the economic recovery, the lowering short-term unemployment rate and urged Congress to renew the charter for U.S. Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire in September.

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The EUC program which helped Americans unemployed for more than 27 weeks expired on Dec. 28, 2013. One bill the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 that Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV co-authored and co-sponsored passed in the Senate in April. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, however, failed to put the bill to a vote before its June 1, 2014, deadline, because it did not include job creation measures.

On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Reed and Heller unveiled a new bill, extending benefits for five months without a deadline and the retroactive element included in the first bill, but there is still no job creation measures. The House also introduced its own bipartisan unemployment extension bill co-authored and sponsored by Representatives Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ-02 and Dan Kildee, D-MI-05 and introduced on Wednesday afternoon, June 25, 2014. There has been no action in the House or Senate on either bill before the August Congressional recess.

The GOP have been emphasizing job creation rather than unemployment benefits because they believe it perpetuates unemployment. The Republicans are also quoting new research to back-up their assertion including the¬†National Bureau of Economic Research concluded in a recent study¬†released this past spring that “unemployment benefit extensions can account for most of the persistently high unemployment after the Great Recession.” Additionally,¬†researchers at “Federal Reserve banks in Dallas and St. Louis”¬†have also determined in their regional studies that long-term unemployment benefits prolong unemployment, the unemployed have less of an incentive to get a new job or even actively look for work.

Another study, however, contradicts that claim, Andrew C. Quinn of the Conservative American Enterprise Institute recently brought up a¬†2012 study done by Stanford University sociology professor Cristobal Young¬†who concludes “Unemployment benefits make unemployment easier.” The study entitled “Losing a Job: The Nonpecuniary Cost of Unemployment in the United States” also¬†looked at the psychological effects of unemployment¬†and Young determines unemployment makes people unhappy and even if they would collect their full wages, without working for them Americans are miserable. Young wrote; “Unemployment benefits merely take a little bit of the edge off the happiness downdraft from being laid off. To be sure, the financial help cuts back on some stress at the margins. But just as clearly, involuntary idleness brings a massive psychological cost that mere money can hardly touch.”

Since President Barack Obama announced his economic opportunity program during his State of the Union address in January 2014, he has signed over 20 executive orders to help the economic plight of lower income and middle-class Americans, but there is one area he has not done any action to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Obama used to regularly pressure and criticize Congressional Republicans for not passing the extension in speeches, but as the year wore on, he has increasingly overlooked the issue even after the Reed-Heller adopted in the Senate. Even ignoring Speaker Boehner begging the president or the White House to provide him a list of mutually acceptable job creation measures to add to the Reed-Heller bill to put the bill to a House vote.

Now President Obama spends more time in speeches praising his administration’s part in the economic recovery, than remembering the still increasing long-term unemployment rate. In¬†his weekly address Obama gave himself again a pat¬†on the back stating “Nearly six years after the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new¬†jobs¬†over the past 53 months. That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history. And we’re in a six-month streak with our economy creating at least 200,000 new jobs each month — the first time that’s happened since 1997.”

The June jobs report and the July jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning, Aug. 1 has been misleading and assisting Republican opponents of the unemployment benefits extension. The July jobs report showed good news about the economy, specifically regarding short-term term unemployment and job creation. According to the report, however, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent. Still, 209,000 jobs were added and 238,000 created.

The bad news of the July jobs reports continued to be the persistent long-term unemployment rate. Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks; they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and dropped by 1.1 million since July 2013.

President Obama has joined the Republicans in emphasizing job creation more than helping the long-term unemployed with benefits they need now. In his weekly addressObama indicated that the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s¬†“sole mission is to create American jobs. That’s it. It helps many American entrepreneurs take that next step and take their small business global.”

This time President Obama is attacking Republicans for not renewing the job creating a charter, which always had bipartisan support in the past.¬†Obama recounted; “Now, past Congresses have done this 16 times, always with support from both parties. Republican and Democratic Presidents have supported the bank, too. This time around shouldn’t be any different. Because the bank works. It’s independent. It pays for itself. But if Congress fails to act, thousands of businesses, large and small, that sell their products abroad will take a completely unnecessary hit.” The president is urging Americans to pressure their Congressional representative into renewing the charter

The GOP House was more open to passing job creating legislation versus the unemployment benefits extension, passing the Senate’s bipartisan job training bill the “reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (PL 105-220).” The bill¬†reforming federal training programs passed with overwhelming support¬†in both houses, in the Senate the bill as passed in June by a vote of 95 to 3 and in the House on Wednesday, July 9 with a vote of 415 to 6. Yet, two unemployment benefits extension bills sit struck in the committee stage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV promises to still put the new Reed-Heller bill to a vote. The Senate returns, however, on Sept. 8 and Reid wants to recess for the midterm election campaign only two weeks later on Sept, 23 leaving little time to push through a vote. Still, as Learning and Finance point out, the Democrats might use the unemployment benefits extension as a campaign issue and push through the bill.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics August 24, 2014: Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

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Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 22, 2014, 6:48 AM MST

Attorney General Eric Holder meets with Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson during his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014; Holder's visit helped calm the unrest that started when Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9
Attorney General Eric Holder meets with Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson during his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014; Holder’s visit helped calm the unrest that started when Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9
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Politics August 20, 2014: Obama condemns Foley beheading, WH warned, Bush warned of rise of terrorist Iraq

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Obama condemns Foley beheading, WH warned, Bush warned of rise of terrorist Iraq

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 20, 2014, 4:02 PM MST

President Barack Obama delivers statement on the beheading of kidnapped U.S. journalist James Foley by the terrorist and militant ISIS, Aug. 20, 2014

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President Barack Obama delivers statement on the beheading of kidnapped U.S. journalist James Foley by the terrorist and militant ISIS, Aug. 20, 2014
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Politics August 18, 2014: Levin and House Democrats still support the unemployment benefits extension

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Levin and House Democrats still support the unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 18, 2014, 8:14 AM MST

Rep. Sander Levin and House Democrats showed their support for the 3.2 millon long-term unemployed and the benefits extension with five Witness Wednesday press conferences reading personal stories of hardship
Rep. Sander Levin and House Democrats showed their support for the 3.2 million long-term unemployed and the benefits extension with five Witness Wednesday press conferences reading personal stories of hardship
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Politics August 17, 2014: New research supports GOP unemployment extension opposition

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Congressional Republicans have long thought that unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless prolongs unemployment, now they are using three studies as an excuse not to pass an extension
Congressional Republicans have long thought that unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless prolong unemployment, now they are using three studies as an excuse not to pass an extension
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Politics August 15, 2014: Obama considering possible executive action for the unemployment extension

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Obama considering possible executive action for the unemployment extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 15, 2014, 6:05 PM MST

There is speculation that President Barack Obama might consider executive action to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, Aug. 12, 2014
There is speculation that President Barack Obama might consider executive action to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, Aug. 12, 2014
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Politics August 12, 2014: Clinton attacks Obama on Syria in Atlantic then will hug it out in the Vineyard

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Clinton attacks Obama on Syria in Atlantic then will hug it out in the Vineyard

August 12, 2014, 7:11 PM MST

Hillary Clinton criticized President Barack Obama's foreign policy in Atlantic than tried to make amends in released statement, Aug. 12, 2014
Hillary Clinton criticized President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in Atlantic then tried to make amends in released statement, Aug. 12, 2014
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Politics August 10, 2014: Obama facing criticism left and right for 12-day vacation as world crises rage

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Obama facing criticism left and right for 12-day vacation as world crises rage

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 10, 2014, 4:17 PM MST

President Barack Obama and the first family are vacationing in Martha's Vineyard, Aug. 9-24; Obama is facing criticism for the expensive break as crisis loom both at home and abroad
President Barack Obama and the first family are vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Aug. 9-24; Obama is facing criticism for the expensive break as crisis loom both at home and abroad
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Politics August 8, 2014: Obama updates country on Iraq airstrikes leaves military timetable open

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Obama updates country on Iraq airstrikes leaves military timetable open

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 9, 2014, 8:52 PM MST

President Barack Obama delivers a statement updating the American public about the new mission in Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014

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President Barack Obama delivers a statement updating the American public about the new mission in Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014
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Politics August 8, 2014: Obama, Congress’ failing grades record approval rating lows in NBC News-WSJ poll

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Obama, Congress’ failing grades record approval rating lows in NBC News-WSJ poll

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 8, 2014, 6:42 PM MST

 President Barack Obama needs to work more rather than attack the Republicans according to a new NBC News-WSJ poll where Obama saw his lowest approval rating, Aug. 6, 2014
President Barack Obama needs to work more rather than attack the Republicans according to a new NBC News-WSJ poll where Obama saw his lowest approval rating, Aug. 6, 2014
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Politics August 6, 2014: Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

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Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 6, 2014, 3:24 PM MST

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For the long-term jobless the economy is not as good as President Barack Obama declared in his press conference, especially since for the pass 8 months Congress will not renew the benefits extension, Aug. 1, 2014

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President Barack Obama used his pre-August recess press conference held at the White House press briefing room on Friday afternoon, Aug. 1, 2014, and his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Aug. 2, 2014, to boast about the good economic news. The July jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning, Aug. 1 showed an increase in new jobs and decrease in unemployment. The president focused on what more that can be done for the middle class if the Republicans in Congress would not block his agenda. President Obama emphasized elements from his economic opportunity program including raising the minimum wage, student loans repayments, fair pay and paid leave, however, noticeably absent was any mention of extending long-term jobless benefits. President Obama in full campaign mode is still trying his unsuccessful tactic of shaming the Republicans to pass nationwide bills on those issues he has already signed executive actions for, but he never threatens to veto any bill to push the unemployment benefits extension through Congress and now evens forgets to mention it.

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President¬†Obama referenced in his opening remarks on the economy¬†from his press conference both the July¬†Jobs¬†report and the news that the U.S.¬†economy¬†grew by 4 percent in the second quarter, the best shape the economy has been in since 2005. President’s Obama used his weekly address entitled “It’s Time for Congress to Help the Middle Class” to also brag about the improving economy specifically the falling unemployment rates. Obama called the economic achievement “the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.”

Speaking of the jobs report, Obama focused on putting the July statistics in historical context, making sure the sound even better than might be. Obama was not just boasting at his own achievements, but also as a campaign pitch for the Democrats in the midterm election campaign.¬†Obama announced¬†“This morning, we learned that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July. That’s on top of about 300,000 new jobs in June. So we are now in a six-month streak with at least 200,000 new jobs each month. That’s the first time that has happened since 1997. Over the past year, we’ve added more jobs than any year since 2006. And all told, our businesses have created 9.9 million new jobs over the past 53 months. That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.”

When referring to the¬†economic growth this past quarter, Obama again boasted; “And as we saw on Wednesday, the economy grew at a steady pace in the spring. Companies are investing. Consumers are spending. American manufacturing, energy, technology, autos — all are booming. And thanks to the decisions that we’ve made, and the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve recovered faster and come farther from the recession than almost any other advanced country on Earth.”

President Obama made almost the same declaration about the economic recovery in his press conference and weekly address. Speaking at the press conference, Obama made the over-generalization¬†“So the good news is the economy clearly is getting stronger. Things are getting better. Our engines are revving a little bit louder. And the decisions that we make right now can sustain and keep that growth and momentum going.”

The president highlighted that there are measures and legislation that if passed can help the economy continue to grow.¬†Obama pointed out; “Unfortunately, there are a series of steps that we could be taking to maintain momentum, and perhaps even accelerate it; there are steps that we could be taking that would result in more job growth, higher wages, higher incomes, more relief for middle-class families.” As the punchline,¬†the president put all the blame on the Republicans¬†in Congress for those bills not being passed “And so far, at least, in Congress, we have not seen them willing or able to take those steps.”

President¬†Obama accentuated his dedication to helping the middle class¬†by sharply contrasting himself from the Republicans at three points in his weekly address. Obama declared, “My top priority as President is doing everything I can to create more jobs and more opportunities for hardworking families to get ahead,” and later stating; “I’ll never stop trying to work with both parties to get things moving faster for the middle class.” President Obama concluded his address with a promise; “I will never stop doing whatever I can, whenever I can, not only to make sure that our economy succeeds but that people like you succeed.”

President Obama’s entire address focused on the¬†legislation the Republicans in Congress are preventing from passing¬†and helping middle class improve their economic position. Unlike his press conference where the President listed all the ways, the Republicans have made Congress dysfunctional in both domestic and foreign issues, in his weekly address, he focused on economic concerns, stating; “All of them would help working families feel more stable and secure. And all of them have been blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress.”

With all the talk about possible impeachment over his ever growing list of executive actions taken in domestic policy since the start of the year, Obama still justified and praised himself for taking action when Congress does not. The president even poked fun at the¬†House Republicans who voted to sue him¬†over the health care law’s the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare’s delayed employer mandate. The Republican House voted 225 to 201 in a pre-recess vote on Wednesday, July 30 to sue the president for not having Congress vote on delay.

Mocking and making light of the vote¬†Obama expressed; “That’s why my administration keeps taking what actions we can on our own to help working families – because Congress is doing so little for working families. House Republicans actually got together this week and voted to sue me for taking actions on my own. And then they left town for the month without settling a bunch of unfinished business that matters to working families across America.”

In President Obama’s sunshine view of the economic recovery, he seemed to have forgotten the 3.2 million long-term jobless Americans, who after more than 26 weeks of unemployment still suffer and cannot find jobs. Making their situation even more challenging is the fact that for over eight months since the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, these Americans slowly lost benefits that helped them survive.

During those same eight months two senators Republican Dean Heller, R-NV and Democrat, Jack Reed, D-RI have been working to pass a bill to extend benefits. They also included reinstituting the EUC program that started in 2008 at the outset of the great recession and economic downturn, after a failure in February, they finally reached an acceptable bipartisan deal in March.

The first Reed-Heller bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote on April 7, 2014. The bill included a retroactive element with a five-month deadline valid only from Dec. 28, 2013, to June 1, 2014. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH objected to the bill’s retroactive aspect calling it “unimplementable” and insisted that it include job creation elements. Boehner also insisted that President Obama or the White House provide in general a¬†list of acceptable job creating provisions¬†to the¬†Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014.

Boehner particularly pressured the president since after the bill passed in the Senate and transferred to the committee stage in the House. Job creation provisions were a key demand from the speaker to put the bill to a House vote. Obama had his press secretaries respond, and his Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a May 7 letter to Boehner only provided the speaker a Democratic job creation wish list, but not one that would satisfy Republicans and would help.

President Obama however, never did and still has no plans to phone and discuss the bill with the speaker, instead of giving campaign-style speeches blaming the GOP have been his mantra because they help the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. Like this, his weekly address and press conference held on Friday, August 1, 2014, Obama patted himself on the back for the improved economy and July jobs report but ignored the rest of the report that showed long-term unemployment stagnantly and even rising.

Sen.¬†Heller puts more of the blame on President Obama¬†than even the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Heller blames the White House and President Obama for the bill’s failure because they refused to negotiate with Boehner and would not provide him with an acceptable list of job-creating provisions as he requested for the speaker to put the bill to a vote in the House.

Sens.¬†Reed and Heller introduced on June 24, another¬†unemployment benefits extension bill. The new stand-alone bill attempts to comply more with Speaker of the House John Boehner’s, R-OH demands. The bill will have a five-month extension, lasting approximately until the end of 2014, does not have a deadline, and will cost a total of $10 billion.

The new bill is doing worse than the first one, with even the Senate ignoring the bill. It no longer has five Republicans supporting it, only Heller, which would make it difficult to pass the legislative hurdles and advance in the Senate. The¬†bill lost its funding¬†when the House and Republican-authored Highway Trust Fund Bill decided to use the unemployment benefits extension bill’s funding of “pension smoothing” and “extending customs fees,” leaving the bill without a funding source. Since¬†the Highway Trust Fund bill had to pass by Aug. 1, if not transportation funding would have been cut by 28 percent with “100,000 transportation projects” and “700,000 construction jobs” on the line it had been deemed a priority to President Obama, the GOP House, and Democratic Senate.

Additionally, although Reed and Heller were working to add the unemployment benefits extension bill to a popular bipartisan bill, one by one Congress passed their options, while Congress ignored the unemployment extension and left it out in the cold. First the authors‘ of the Senate bipartisan Workforce Investment Act, a job training bill did not want to include the bill as a supplemental as to not hinder the bill’s passage. Then there was the business tax cuts extenders bill “S.2260 – EXPIRE Act of 2014” that failed to advance in the Senate. Reed and Heller also wanted the extension added to the emergency border crisis spending bill with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV being at first opened to the idea and then decided against it. In the end, that bill also failed to advance in the Senate.

The July jobs report showed good news about the economy, specifically regarding short-term term unemployment and job creation.¬†According to the report, the unemployment rate rose slightly¬†from 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent and 209,000 jobs were added, with 238,000 created. The numbers were less than initially suspected, but are still considered a victory for the economy because it marks the sixth month that the economy has added more than 200,00 jobs. As President Obama pointed out it at his press conference; “That’s the first time that has happened since 1997.”

Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks; they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and declined by 1.1 million since July 2013.

There are, however, still 3.2 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.9 percent of all unemployed Americans. Older workers, women and younger workers within service and blue-collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, the EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Here it is eight months later with long-term unemployment essentially not and Congress is no closer in fact further from passing an extension than it was then.

Although President Obama never mentioned the unemployment benefits extension in either his press conference and subsequent weekly address,¬†he did acknowledge that more can be done for the middle class¬†if Congress the passes Obama’s economic agenda. In his weekly address, he admitted; “The bottom line is this – we’ve come a long way these past five and a half years. Our challenges are nowhere near as daunting as they were back then. But imagine how much farther along our economy would be – how much stronger our country would be – if Congress would do its job.”

Obama and Democrats have chosen economic opportunity as their key issue in the midterm election campaign. The Democrats are on the edge where they might lose six seats and their control in the Senate. They already realize regaining control of the House of Representatives is virtually impossible at this point. Presidents often see their parties lose seats in the second midterm elections of their terms, and Obama and Democrats are trying to curb that precedent.

The¬†economic opportunity program, however, has not energized the base¬†and voters as much as the Democrats had hoped. However, more recently Obama has recently completely forgotten the 3.2 million long-term jobless Americans, probably because to him the bill is not a winning battle with Congress and with voters. President Obama will no doubt ably continue his campaign rhetoric as the year progresses, boasting of his administration’s accomplishments, focusing on economic issues important to the Democratic base and included in the Obama budget and attack, attack and mock the Republicans hoping it will be enough to keep the Senate come November.

RELATED LINKS

  • President Barack Obama‚Äôs¬†Press Conference, Aug. 1, 2014

Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics August 4, 2014: Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

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Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, 

August 4, 2014, 5:14 PM MST

The Democratic Senate passed, and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund bill which takes away funding for the unemployment benefits extension bill, Aug. 1, 2014

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Now that the¬†Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund extension bill¬†on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, the payment method for the¬†unemployment benefits extension bill has been permanently taken away. The highway bill uses pension smoothing and customs fees to pay for the short-term extension lasting until May 2015. The unemployment benefits extension bill’s co-authors Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV had been planning to use since March 2014 when they first unveiled their bipartisan bill, the¬†Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014. Meanwhile Reed and Heller are working to find new funding, and unfortunately the 3.2 million long-term jobless will have to wait another five weeks until the Senate returns on Sept. 8 from the August recess to see any real possible action on the bill.

The highway and¬†transportation¬†bill, the MAP-21 Reauthorization had two different incarnations in the House and Senate;¬†the bill had to pass by Aug. 1¬†if not transportation funding would have been cut by 28 percent with “100,000 transportation projects” and “700,000 construction jobs” on the line. Since so many jobs are at stake, it has been deemed a priority to President Obama, the GOP House, and Democratic Senate. The bill’s importance and funding methods come at the expense of the unemployment benefits extension bill and the over 3.2 million Americans that desperately want to see the bill pass and benefits renewed.

The unemployment benefits extension’s bill’s authors Jack Reed, D-RI, and Dean Heller, R-NV have been trying to get their bill added as a supplemental to must pass bipartisan bills, including the Highway Trust Fund bill, and the emergency border crisis spending bill, both efforts have proved fruitless. Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV was open to adding the extension to either bill it never happened.

The Highway Trust Fund bill first passed the Senate on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, with a vote of 79 to 18. The Senate passed their own version of the bill forgoing the House’s version. The primary reason the House’s bill was refused was their choice of funding sources, which the Senate considered a “gimmick.”¬†According to the Associated Press, “Lawmakers” think “it will cost the¬†government¬†money in the long run and undermine the financial stability of pension funds.” Instead, the Senate wanted to make¬†“it harder for people to claim tax deductions and credits they don’t qualify for.”

Republicans usually object to pension smoothing, including when it was being used for the unemployment benefits extension, but this is the second time in this year they have used it to fund bills. The Highway Trust Fund has always been paid for by the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax, but the tax is too low and can no longer support it, the Democratic Senate wanted to raise the tax for a long-term bill, but the House Republicans and President Obama oppose the idea.

The¬†Senate added a bipartisan amendment¬†sponsored and authored by Tom Carper, D-DE, Barbara Boxer, D-Ca and Bob Corker R-TN “stripping” the bill of the funding of the questionable funding sources, lowering its price tag to $8.1 billion and making the extension last on until Dec. 19, 2014. The point was to make the House agree to a long-term bill during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections in November. The amendment passed 66 to 31.

The fact that the Senate refused the House’s bill at first seemed like the only good news for the unemployment benefits extension because it appeared to ensure the funding sources were still available for the bill. Later in the week, the House decided to refuse the Senate’s revised bill forcing the Senate to agree to the funding meant for the unemployment benefits extension.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH promised if the Senate passed their own version of the bill the House would just send it back, the original way they passed it.¬†Boehner warned; “I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we’re going to strip it out and put the House-passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate.” The House did reject the Senate-passed version with a vote of 272 to 150 held on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2014. Since Majority Leader Reid promised President Obama will have a passed bill by the Aug. 1 deadline the¬†Senate had no choice but to pass the House bill¬†with a vote of 81 to 13.

The House version of the highway funding bill drafted by the Republican majority, and sponsored and authored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is a temporary short-term bill extending funding until May 2015. The $10.8 billion bill is being funded the same way as the unemployment benefits extension bill had planned to be paid for, through pension smoothing and customs fees. The unemployment benefits extension bill also will cost $10 billion for the five-month extension that is planned in the Reed-Heller bill.

In contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate’s bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed to fund their bill by pension smoothing and raising taxes, mainly the gas tax. The Senate had two bills, one provides a long-term solution, but without Republicans agreeing to raise taxes the two parties might never come to an agreement on the bill. The second bill is an even shorter term bill, last only until December and paid for with tax increases. Majority Leader¬†Reid wanted the Senate to vote on all three versions¬†of the transportation bills, saying; “My intention is have votes on all three.”

The House of Representatives passed the Highway Trust Fund Extension bill; H.R. 5021: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The House passed highway trust fund extension bill takes away the funds from pension smoothing and increasing customs fees that Reed and Heller had been planning to use. The eEven more bad news is the fact that the bill passed with bipartisan support 367 to 55.

With so many jobs on the line, if the highway bill fails to be renewed, the bill had the reluctant support of President¬†Barack Obama¬†and the Democratic Senate as well, leaving the unemployment benefits extension almost doomed to failure. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin¬†Hatch, R-UT admitted the Senate has no choice¬†if they are to meet the deadline; “Congress¬†needs to act immediately to prevent a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund ‚Ķ Thousands of jobs are at stake here. The only viable solution is for the Senate to take up the House bill and pass it. ‚Ķ We don‚Äôt have any other options if we want to get this done before the recess.”

Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and declined by 1.1 million since July 2013.

There are, however, still 3.2 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.9 percent of all unemployed Americans. Older workers, women and younger workers within service and blue-collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, the EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Here it is eight months later with long-term unemployment essentially not and Congress is no closer in fact further from passing an extension than it was then.

When the House passed the Highway Trust Fund Sen.¬†Heller acknowledged that it was going to difficult¬†to find new funding that Republicans would approve of, saying; “That’s going to be an issue.” Heller spoke to¬†Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call¬†about finding new funding for the bill and not giving up. Heller said, “Jack [Reed] and I had a conversation last week just trying to figure – you know there are no pay-fors left out there – trying to figure out how we can move this thing forward. We haven’t given up, we are just still trying to figure out what our next move is.” With a five-week recess, they are bound to find a way to fund the bill, the more difficult problem is how to get the Senate and House to pass the extension.

RELATED LINKS

Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics August 3, 2014: House GOP passes immigration border crisis bills before recess as Senate fails

House GOP passes immigration border crisis bills before recess as Senate fails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, August 3, 2014, 1:23 PM MST

Speaker of the House John Boehner had a small victory with the passage of the immgration bills before the recess when the Senate could not pass their bill, Aug. 1, 2014
Speaker of the House John Boehner had a small victory with the passage of the immigration bills before the recess when the Senate could not pass their bill, Aug. 1, 2014
Alex Wong/Getty Images