Maine Fishermen to be Relieved of Onerous Tax Burden.

Commercial Fishermen Rejoice!
Commercial Fishermen Rejoice!

It has been a week of good news for Maine’s ground fishermen.

Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will award $32.8 million in federal funding for the mitigation of the 2013 New England Multispecies Groundfish Fishery disaster that was declared by the Secretary of Commerce. This funding will help aid struggling ground fishermen in the Northeast, including Maine. In addition, the Secretary of Commerce will waive the 25-percent non-federal match requirement as requested by Senator Collins and Senator Angus King in a letter sent earlier this month.

“Fishing is a way of life in Maine and New England and, for too long, our fishermen, their families, and their communities, have struggled with onerous federal regulations and other burdensome costs,” said Senator Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I was pleased to have secured Fisheries Disaster Assistance in the federal funding bill approved by Congress in January, which can be used to provide both immediate economic relief to our region’s struggling groundfishing industry, and to make targeted investments that will allow the fleet to survive and become more sustainable in the years ahead. I also applaud the decision to waive the non-federal matching requirement, which would have placed an unnecessary burden on our state and local economies.”

In addition, Senator Collins announced that NOAA expects to fully cover observer and at-sea monitoring costs for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ground fishermen during Fishing Year 2014.

Maggie Raymond, Executive Director of Associated Fisheries of Maine, responded to that good news: “Senator Collins understands that Maine’s groundfish industry cannot absorb these costs, and we are grateful that she took the lead on assuring that the funds were included in the National Marine Fisheries Service budget.”

The federal funding bill included an appropriation of $43 million to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for Observers and Training operations, and it also included legislative report language authored by Senator Collins that directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to cover these at-sea and dockside monitoring costs.

 

Fischer Introduces Legislation to Protect Taxpayers from IRS Overreach

 

Sen. Fischer wants to rein in the IRS.
Sen. Fischer wants to rein in the IRS.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) has introduced a pair of bills to protect taxpayers from overreach by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which systematically targeted and delayed the applications of conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status beginning in 2010.

 

“As the federal agency tasked with administering the U.S. tax code, the IRS has extraordinary influence on the lives of Americans from all walks of life and all points of view,” Senator Fischer said. “Nebraskans and all Americans have the absolute right to expect the IRS to be free from political influence, with taxpayers treated fairly and enforcement carried out in an unbiased manner. These two bills protect the constitutional rights of taxpayers, increase transparency, and promote accountability of the IRS, which has a long way to go to regain credibility and restore public trust.”

 


 

The Stop IRS Overreach Act (S.2043) would prohibit the IRS from asking any taxpayer questions regarding their religious, political, or social beliefs. It also expresses the sense of Congress that:

 

  • Any exceptions later enacted by Congress should clearly identify the content of questions, the class of taxpayers to be questioned, and circumstances under which questions will be asked; and
     
  • If the IRS Commissioner determines that asking such questions would aid in the administration of tax laws, then he/she should submit a report to Congress detailing the content of the questions, the class of taxpayers to be questioned, and circumstances under which questions will be asked.
     

Text of the legislation is available online by clicking HERE.

 

The Taxpayer Accountability Act (S.2044) would require the IRS to:

  • Provide a written response to any taxpayer correspondence within 30 days;
     
  • Notify a taxpayer within 30 days after disclosing their taxpayer information to another government entity; and
     
  • Conclude any audit of an individual taxpayer (and the related taxes of such audit) within one year of initiating the audit.

United States Olympic Winners Gouged by the IRS!

The IRS Shakes Down Olympic Winners.
The IRS Shakes Down Olympic Winners.
Every two years, our nation supports athletes from throughout our country as they compete in the Summer or Winter Olympics. These athletes spend years training to compete and represent the United States of America to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, should an athlete medal in an Olympic event, they are subjected to a tax by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the medals and cash prizes awarded through the United States Olympic Committee. This means our current tax code punishes the success of our nation’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
In order to ensure that our nation’s tax code no longer unfairly penalizes athletes for their outstanding performances during the Olympics and Paralympics, Senator John Thune of South Dakota introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 2026) that would exempt Olympic and Paralympic medalists from being taxed by the IRS on the medals and cash prizes they win. If enacted, the bill would have a negligible effect on revenue and would not affect taxes on endorsement and sponsorship income earned by a minority of successful Olympians. Senator Thune’s legislation would ensure that the federal government celebrates the achievement of these athletes rather than tax their success.

 

 

 

 

Federal Government Cover up: Whistleblowers Still Punished and Persecuted.

 

"I know nothing!"
“I know nothing!”

WASHINGTON –  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, released a joint report on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s highly-invasive surveillance program that monitored employees who contacted Congress and the media with concerns about FDA’s medical device approval process.

In April 2010, the FDA initiated a surveillance program of unprecedented scope to monitor employees in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  The program allowed FDA managers to read communications between FDA employees and Congress, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and their personal attorneys.  The Joint Committee report, entitled “Limitless Surveillance at the FDA: Protecting the Rights of Federal Whistleblowers,” found the FDA acted without regard for employees’ whistleblower rights, which protect their communications to Congress and OSC.  The joint report also found that FDA conducted the program without adequate guidelines in place and made no effort to limit the scope of the program to exclude protected communications.

The Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the FDA’s surveillance today at 10:00 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

Key Findings:

•   Insufficient authorization and guidelines. The monitoring was implemented with insufficient written authorization, no policy in place and no legal guidance given to the contractors conducting the monitoring. As a result, FDA captured communications that are protected by law, including communications with Congress, the media, and watchdog groups like Project on Government Oversight.

•    Unlawful capturing of protected communications. Because no formal monitoring policy was in place, FDA managers did not understand the legal limits of employee monitoring. The FDA’s surveillance was not lawful, to the extent that it monitored communications with Congress and the Office of Special Counsel. Federal law protects disclosures to OSC and Congress.

•    Lack of explanation for capture of future communications. Instead of looking back at previous communications using available tools, the FDA captured real-time communications of current and future communications. When interviewed, FDA managers and IT professionals failed to explain clearly how the rationale offered to justify the monitoring (investigating a past leak) was consistent with the method used (monitoring current activity).

•    New policies do not offer sufficient whistleblower protections. In September 2013, the FDA issued interim policies that require written authorization prior to initiating employee monitoring. However, the policies do not offer sufficient protection for whistleblowers concerned about retaliation from agency officials.

 

Remembering American Excess: A Personal Memoir of the 1950’s.

He presided over a patriotic gluttony unknown since Ancient Rome.
He presided over a patriotic gluttony unknown since Ancient Rome.

I had a near-death experience as a teenager, when my mother put a plate of tuna casserole in front of me one evening, which I refused to touch.  She berated me:  “Don’t you know there are thousands of children starving right now in China?”

“Name two” I promptly replied.

Had she caught me, she might have faced a murder charge.  As it was, I’m sure I set a world track record as I sped around the block, just inches ahead of her broom. 

As a child of the Fifties and early Sixties I was not only encouraged to lick the platter clean I was made to feel like a traitor to Eisenhower and Kefauver if I didn’t ask for seconds, and thirds.  America was a land of immense bounty.  The wheat fields of Kansas stretched forever to a horizon filled with turbo-charged cars from Detroit and skyscrapers that scoffed at the Tower of Babel; pilsner and lager spilled from Midwest breweries in such quantities that it was no idle boast when my dad said he would drink enough to float a battleship (and sink his liver); ten million embers licked hungrily at ten million steaks as they dripped fat, on ten million barbeque grills on ten million thoroughly fertilized and lush backyard lawns;  Wisconsin milk flowed like water, and water was fluoridated and chlorinated and filled immense latex rings where I and a million other children frolicked all summer, in between gulps of treacly Kool-Aid and bites of Wonder Bread smothered with butter and Welch’s Grape Jelly.  Shoes were leather, TV was in color and cigarettes were king-sized.

We lived like pigs at a never-ending trough.  If Krushchev were going to bury us, he’d need a mighty big pine box!

So it came to pass that we grew up drowning in salt, fat, and sugar, not to mention alcohol and tobacco.  Moderation in all things?  What are you, a pinko?  Conspicuous Consumption was the name of the American game.

Now my generation reaps the whirlwind of Slim Fast diets and preventive colonoscopies.  We try to make amends by treating our grandkids to Perrier instead of lemonade.  Cotton candy is considered child abuse.  And finally, thank the good Lord and General Mills, it seems like kids are once again slowing down their consumption, heeding that jeremiad memorably rasped by W.C. Fields:  “According to you, everything I like is  illegal, immoral, or fattening.” 

Our double chins quivering with emotion, we glimpse a better, healthier life for our descendants, if they will but heed Malthusian common sense.

And what would we change, if we could but go back in time to those years of our own indulgence and excess?

Not a damn thing, pal.  It was more fun than a barrel of Smokehouse almonds!  

"According to you, everything I like is illegal, immoral, or fattening!"
“According to you, everything I like is illegal, immoral, or fattening!”

 

America’s Infrastructure Being Ignored by Grabby Bureaucrats in Washington! Sen. Lee Says Our Transportation System is a Mess.

The TEA Act offers a fresh approach to transportation funding with better results

 

Travel Becoming Harder in America; whose fault is it?
Travel Becoming Harder in America; whose fault is it?

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee released the following statement on the president’s transportation proposal:

“Today, the president has offered the country the same old idea: send more money to Washington where the special interests get their cut, the politicians get the credit, and future generations get the bill. Unfortunately, his proposal is more about preserving a dysfunctional system than improving our roads. It’s a top-down, DC-knows-best approach to do to our transportation infrastructure what Obamacare has done to our health care.

“Conservatives have a fresh approach that will save money, reduce commuting times, grow the economy and create jobs, and allow state and local officials, who are ultimately responsible for infrastructure projects, to respond more quickly to the transportation needs of each state.

“The Transportation Empowerment Act creates a new system where Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists siphon off precious resources before sending it back to the states with strings attached. Instead, under this proposal, states and cities could plan, finance, and build better-designed and more affordable projects.

“Some communities could choose to build more roads, while others might prefer to repair old ones. Some might build highways, others light-rail. And all would be free to experiment with innovative green technologies, and new ways to finance their projects, like congestion pricing and smart tolls.

“All states and localities should finally have the flexibility to develop the kind of transportation system they want, for less money, without politicians and special interests from other parts of the country telling them how, when, what, and where they should build.”

YOU Can Teach English in Thailand This Year!

English teachers make exceptional money in Thailand.
English teachers make exceptional money in Thailand.

Are you tired of the ice and snow and cold?  Is your current job a dead end buzz kill?  Maybe you’ve been laid off, or just graduated and can’t seem to find a job anywhere.  Does the thought of another helping of ramen noodles or burger and fries leave you slightly bored and nauseous, but you can’t afford anything else?

Take heart, mon frère!  You can be strolling on a tropical beach in Thailand, working as a respected and well-paid English teacher, gorging on fresh fruits and veggies and seafood year round, in a matter of months! 

It doesn’t matter if you have a teaching degree or not; in fact, it really doesn’t matter if you have a college degree at all!

The gateway to a teaching career in Thailand, and many other countries in Asia, is to obtain a TESOL certificate.  TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Students of Other Languages”.  It is also sometimes called TEFL for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”.  Or ESL, which stands for “English as a Second Language”.  The acronym is unimportant; if you have the certificate, and are a native English speaker, schools in Thailand are going to be interested in hiring you to teach their students.

You can take a month-long TESOL course on-site in Thailand, as a ‘working vacation’.  The cost is approximately $1200, including room and board.  We recommend this website to get started:

TEFL International.

If money is tight, you can obtain your TESOL certificate online here:  http://www.teflinternational.com/tefl-online/

Classes are geared for the non-professional person who may never have taught before.  You’ll learn how to manage a classroom, how to teach basic English language skills, and how to engage students in the learning process.  Whether you’re just out of college or a senior citizen, a former truck driver or homemaker, you can learn these rudimentary skills in a matter of weeks.

Once you’ve got your TESOL certificate, you will canvass schools in whatever area of Thailand you like, and, under normal circumstances, you will have a paid teaching position within a month.  The average salary for an ESL teacher in Thailand is 30-thousand baht per month, plus either a free apartment or a housing allowance.  This salary allows you to eat out as often as you want and to tour the country on weekends and holidays.  Thailand is one of the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world, and the people are justly famous for their friendliness, hospitality, and graciousness. 

For an excellent idea of what kind of work is available, please check out the Ajarn website at:  http://ajarn.com/ 

 

Nathan and Tim heartily endorse ESL teaching in Thailand as a legitimate and fun way to work in an exotic yet welcoming culture that just may entrance you so much you’ll never leave.  No matter what, it will be a life-changing experience for you!

Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries on earth!
Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries on earth!

 

Federal Insurance Program That Fights Terrorism to be Allowed to Expire.

Sen. Mark Kirk supports TRIA.
Sen. Mark Kirk supports TRIA.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today urged bipartisan support for the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which is set to expire at the end of this year. TRIA ensures that businesses can purchase terrorism insurance coverage, which is provided by private insurance companies and not federally funded.

“Since September 11, 2001, Illinois has been the target of at least seven attempted terrorist attacks,” Senator Kirk said.  “We must do all we can to defend our citizens and thwart all terrorist plots against our homeland, but we must also be ready to bounce back as a state and nation should an attack ever occur. Reauthorizing TRIA will ensure that Illinois employers and infrastructure have sound financial protection.  Americans cannot afford the uncertainty of allowing these insurance options to expire.”

TRIA ensures that in the event of a terrorist attack, private insurance companies are able to provide adequate coverage without threatening the stability of our nation’s financial system. If the terrorist event is of such a large scale that the government backstop is triggered, the federal government will step in to provide federal coverage. However, the government can fully recoup any funds paid out for a terrorism event over time, ensuring little-to-no cost to taxpayers.

TRIA was enacted in 2002 following the September 11th attacks and has been reauthorized twice in the past 12 years, with each reauthorization providing greater taxpayer protections. Terrorism is not a fully insurable event, due to the unpredictable nature of man-made attacks. Terrorism often aims to cripple the U.S. economic, political and infrastructure systems which is why it is imperative that the federal government remain an integral part of the public-private risk sharing TRIA program to safeguard national security and the nation’s financial security.

 

 

Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley On How the Senate Should Operate. Delivered Monday, February 24, 2014

Capitol Clown

 

Mr. President, either tonight or tomorrow, the Senate will consider several district court nominees.  These nominees will be brought up, considered by the Senate, and in all likelihood, confirmed in short order.

 

As I’ve mentioned several times, this is the procedure that the Democrats voted to pursue in November when they voted for the so-called “nuclear option.”  The Majority voted to eliminate the filibuster on nominations, and to cut the Minority out of the process.

 

So, while the Senate is debating these district court nominees, it gives me a good opportunity to continue the discussion about how the Senate ought to be functioning.

 

There’s no debate that the Senate isn’t functioning properly, and we’ve been treated to relentless finger-pointing from the other side regarding who is to blame.

 

Unless we can establish a non-partisan account of how the Senate ought to function, this debate will amount to nothing more than a kindergarten shouting match.

 

So, I would like to return to the Federalist Papers, which are the most detailed account from the time the Constitution was being ratified about how our institutions were intended to operate.

 

Although they were written over 200 years ago, the principles the Federalist Papers articulate are timeless and the problems they highlight are strikingly relevant to today.

 

The last time I addressed the Senate on this subject, I quoted at length from a passage in Federalist Number 62.

 

Although all the Federalist Papers were published under the pseudonym Publius, we know that they were written by three of our Founding Fathers – James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.

 

Federalist 62 has been attributed to the Father of the Constitution, James Madison.

 

In it, he lists several problems that can be encountered by a Republic that the U.S. Senate was specifically designed to counteract.

 

The first point Madison makes is that having a second chamber composed differently than the House makes it less likely that one faction will be able to take over and enact an agenda out of step with the American People.

 

The second point deals with the tendency of unicameral legislatures to yield to sudden popular impulses and pass “intemperate and pernicious resolutions.”

 

The third point is that based on the experience of the early, unicameral state legislatures, a second chamber with longer terms and a more deliberative process will make sure that any laws passed are well thought out.

 

The Framers of our Constitution determined that it was better to get it right the first time than to subject the American people to the upheaval caused by the need to fix poorly conceived laws.

 

Madison talks about the early American experience with “all the repealing, explaining, and amending laws” which he calls:

 

“monuments of deficient wisdom;

 

-so many impeachments exhibited by each succeeding against each preceding session;

 

-so many admonitions to the people, of the value of those aids which may be expected from a well-constituted senate.”

 

In my last speech, I did not get to Madison’s fourth and final point in Federalist 62, which is quite long and deserves to be examined in detail.

 

Madison concludes Federalist 62 with an extensive discussion of the importance of stability to good government and the danger to the rule of law from constant change.

 

This section starts: “Fourthly. The mutability in the public councils arising from a rapid succession of new members, however qualified they may be, points out, in the strongest manner, the necessity of some stable institution in the government.–

 

“Every new election in the States is found to change one half of the representatives.

 

“From this change of men must proceed a change of opinions; and from a change of opinions, a change of measures.

 

“But a continual change even of good measures is inconsistent with every rule of prudence and every prospect of success.

 

“The remark is verified in private life, and becomes more just, as well as more important, in national transactions.”

 

Here, Madison is making a case for stable government instead of constant change.

 

He says that constant change, even with good ideas, will not produce positive results.

 

Madison then elaborates on the various problems caused by an unstable government.

 

He first says about a country that is constantly changing its laws that “…she is held in no respect by her friends; that she is the derision of her enemies; and that she is a prey to every nation which has an interest in speculating on her fluctuating councils and embarrassed affairs.”

 

Madison then makes the case that the domestic ramifications of constantly enacting and changing laws “poisons the blessing of liberty itself.”

 

He goes on to explain, “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”

 

This sounds like the Health Care Law, which is being rewritten daily on the fly by the Obama Administration.

 

But, it’s part of a bigger problem we face with new laws and regulations from agencies, which have the force of law, being churned out in such a volume that no American can possibly know them all.

 

Just based on probability, Americans are likely to violate some regulation or another without knowing it at any time.

 

Madison is making a case not just for more thoughtful laws, but fewer laws.

 

When the Majority Leader and many in the media complain that the Senate should be passing laws at a higher rate, they miss the point entirely.

 

To listen to some members of the majority and many in the media, you would think the success of a session of Congress was measured solely on the sheer number of laws passed, not the quality of the laws it passes.

 

The Senate was specifically designed to slow down the process and make sure Congress passes fewer, but better laws.

 

Madison then elaborates further on why fewer laws are better in a passage that is extremely relevant today:

 

“Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. —

 

“Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens.”

 

In other words, a situation where Congress is constantly changing the laws gives more influence to those who can hire lawyers to keep on top of the changes, and lobbyists to influence them, versus the little guy who is on his own.

 

It is sometimes said that big businesses don’t like regulations, but that isn’t my experience in many instances.

 

The bigger and wealthier a business, or a union, or other special interest group, the better chance they have to shape a new law or regulation and the more people they can hire to help them comply.

 

On the other hand, small businesses and individuals can’t hire a team of lawyers to read the latest laws and regulations and to fill out the proper paperwork.

 

Small businesses and individuals are the ones squeezed out of the marketplace by the constant flow of new laws.

 

An overactive government benefits the big guys at the expense of the little guys, and if you think that fact is lost on the big guys and their lobbyists when they come to Congress, you would be mistaken.

 

As James Madison so wisely noted, an overactive government is an invitation to the rich and powerful to use government to their benefit and the detriment of their competitors.

 

That goes to show that there’s a great benefit to stability in law as opposed to constant change.

 

A cornerstone of liberty is the Rule of Law, meaning the law is transparent and no one is above the law.

 

If you look around the world today, the poorest and least free countries are the ones where there is no rule of law.

 

If someone can take what you’ve earned through force and you have no legal recourse, that’s an example where there is no rule of law.

 

If the rich and powerful get special privileges, that’s an example where the rule of law has broken down.

 

The Rule of Law is one of the principles our country was founded on.

 

But, when there are so many rules, and they are changing so quickly that the average citizen cannot keep up, that undermines the Rule of Law.

 

Of course, the situation is only made worse when the rules already on the books are waived for the politically connected.

That is another problem but one that has become all too common under the Obama administration.

 

Getting back to the Senate’s role, I’m not making a case for doing nothing, or that we should be happy with the failure of the Senate to debate legislation.

 

The Senate is supposed to be slow and deliberative, not stopped.

 

Still, it is important to get away from this notion that somehow the failure to ram legislation through the Senate with little debate and no amendments is the problem.

 

The reason the Senate doesn’t function when the majority leadership tries to run it that way is very simple:

 

The Senate was not designed that way.

 

The Senate was intended to be a deliberative body, and has been for most of its history.

 

It has now become routine for the Majority Leader to file cloture to end consideration of a matter immediately upon moving to it.

 

By contrast, the regular order is for the Senate to consider a matter for some period of time, allowing senators from all parties to weigh in, before cloture is even contemplated.

 

Cloture was invented to allow the Senate to end consideration of a matter after the vast majority of senators had concluded it had received sufficient consideration.

 

Prior to that, there was no way to end debate so long as at least one senator wished to keep deliberating.

 

Cloture was a compromise between the desire to move things along and the principle that each senator, as a representative of his or her state, has the right to participate fully in the legislative process.

 

The compromise was originally that two-thirds of senators voting had to be satisfied that a matter had received sufficient consideration.

 

That was reduced to three-fifths of all senators.

 

Each time this matter is renegotiated, the compromise leans more in favor of speeding up the process at the expense of allowing senators to fully represent the people of their states.

 

Now, the majority leadership routinely files cloture immediately upon proceeding to a matter.

 

Again, cloture is a tool to cut off further consideration of a matter when it appears that it is dragging on too long.

You can hardly claim that the Senate has taken too much time to deliberate over something when it hasn’t even begun consideration of the matter.

 

According to data from the Congressional Research Service, there were only seven times during the first session of the current Congress that the Senate started to consider a bill for a day or more before cloture was filed.

 

That’s out of 34 cloture motions related to legislative business.

 

The number of same-day cloture filings has more than doubled compared to when Republicans last controlled the Senate.

 

Moreover, the total number of cloture motions filed each session of Congress under this majority leadership has roughly doubled compared to the period from 1991 to 2006 under majority leaders of both parties.

 

Before that, cloture was even more rare.

 

This is a sign that cloture is being overused, even abused by the majority.

 

Still, if this alarming rise in cloture motions was a legitimate response to a minority of senators insisting on extended debate to delay proceedings beyond what’s necessary for reasonable deliberation, otherwise known as a filibuster, it might be justified.

 

That’s clearly not the case when the overwhelming number of motions to cut off debate are made before debate has even started.

 

What amount of time is necessary for deliberation, and what is purely dilatory in any particular case is a subjective determination.

 

However, the practice of routinely moving to cut off consideration of virtually every measure when there has not yet been any deliberation cannot be justified.

 

This is an abuse of the cloture motion.

 

Along with the routine blocking of amendments, cloture abuse is preventing senators from doing what we are paid to do — that’s represent the people of our states.

 

Shutting senators out of the deliberative process isn’t just an argument about dry Senate procedure, as the Majority Leader has tried to suggest in response to criticisms.

 

When senators are blocked from participating in the legislative process, the people they represent are disenfranchised.

 

When I say that people are disenfranchised when the majority leadership shuts senators out of the process, I don’t just mean the citizens of the 45 states that elected Republicans.

 

The citizens of states that elected Democrat senators also expect them to offer amendments and engage with their colleagues from different parties.

 

Shutting down consideration of a bill before it has even been considered prevents even members of the majority party from offering amendments that may be important to the people they represent.

 

Voters have a right to expect the people they elect to actually do the hard work of representing them, not just be a rubber stamp for their leadership’s agenda.

 

Senators who go along with tactics that disenfranchise their own constituents should have to answer to those who voted them into office as to why they aren’t willing to do the job they were elected to do.

 

That job includes not just offering amendments when appropriate, but taking tough votes that reveal to your constituents where you stand.

 

The majority leader has gone out of his way to shield members of his caucus from taking votes that may hurt them back home.

 

Senators don’t have any right to avoid tough votes.

 

That’s not the deliberative process James Madison envisioned.

 

If we are going to have good laws that can stand the test of time, the Senate must be allowed to function as it was intended.

 

One aspect of what’s needed to return the Senate to its proper function as a deliberative body is to end cloture abuse.

 

I would ask my colleagues to reflect on all of the changes to the Senate recently, including those negotiated between the two leaders a year ago in return for a promise not to use the nuclear option, as well as the subsequent use of the nuclear option 10 months later.

 

Those reforms, if you can call them that, have been in the direction of reducing the ability of individual senators to represent the people of their states and concentrating power with the majority leadership.

 

It’s time we had some reforms to get the Senate back functioning as a deliberative body like it was intended to under our Constitution.

 

The Senate is supposed to be a place where all voices are heard and reason can rise above partisanship.

 

I would urge all my colleagues to reflect on that and think about your responsibility to the people of your state.

 

If we do that, I’m sure we can come up with some sensible reforms to end the abuse of cloture and restore the Senate to the deliberative body the Framers of the Constitution intended it to be.

 

I’ll be thinking about that and I would encourage all my colleagues to do the same.

 

 

The Bitcoin Craze.

Hoodoo Money.
Hoodoo Money.

When Santa fills your stocking in the future, on the whole,

It’s likely he’ll give Bitcoin, not an orange or some coal.

Monopoly will lose its pieces and the colored paper;

Bitcoin will be used alone upon this hallowed caper.

The Federal Reserve had better stock up while it can;

Otherwise it faces a financial harmattan.

Magicians will manipulate this mystic piece of loot;

They’ll pull it from your ears or maybe pry it from your snoot.

We don’t know what it looks like or how much it may be worth;

Is that why bankers treat it as a cause of grief or mirth?

I don’t know how to make it or where possibly it’s minted;

Is it even possible to have it counterfeited?

But Google ads abound that offer courses on its use

(although, upon inspection, they are awfully obtuse.)

Whether it’s the future of finance for common folk,

To me it’s just another way that I am going broke.

Unless the IRS its rules and penalties relaxes,

I wouldn’t try to give them Bitcoin when it comes to taxes!

Breaking the bank.
Breaking the bank.