Posts tagged Congress
Posts tagged Congress
So congress took a long weekend, everyone. Remember that if you get “sequestered” in a few weeks.
My first words this morning were as follows:
"If presented with a key to a room that held a congressman or a package of gas station sushi…I’d pick the sushi."
WASHINGTON — A pro-life, family-values congressman who worked as a doctor before winning election as a Tea Party-backed Republican had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion, according to a phone call transcript obtained by The Huffington Post.
For the first time in her relatively short career as a Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann is up against a formidable Democratic rival. Her territory, Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, was altered by redistricting, which added more conservatives to her constituency. While this would seem to make Bachmann more invulnerable, her opponent has actually drawn to within two percentage points of her in the polls.
Democratic candidate Jim Graves is a wealthy businessman who is making a lot of political hay by accusing Bachmann of being out of touch with residents’ needs and being more focused on cementing her national brand than on doing her job. His message is resonating with a lot of voters. At a recent town hall meeting, attended by many in Bachmann’s Tea Party base, Graves said, “You know that I love conservatives, because I’m a capitalist. I’m a business guy. I believe in free markets. I feel very, very comfortable being here with you.” The message went over well with the crowd.
Jay Mews, an unemployed St. Cloud resident, went to hear Graves because he wants a candidate with a strong stand on jobs and the economy. In reference to Michele Bachmann he said, “All these crazy conspiracy theories are distracting from the real issues. I’m looking for the real deal.” Minnesota Public Radio quoted the opinion of another voter, Kevin Weyer: “I guess Michele’s off my ticket…we’ve asked at every meeting where she was or if anybody’s seen her or her representative and it’s no every time. After this year I’m not sure where her values are.”
Some leaders in the Republican Party are worried, too, fearing that Bachmann’s wacky agenda will taint the party. But it’s hard to argue with her fundraising skills; in the last three months, her campaign reports that she brought in $4.5 million. Graves raised only $600,000. Even this might not tip the scales in Bachmann’s favor. The Democrat is wealthy enough that he could finance his own campaign.
At times, Bachmann seems to be working against herself. Some of her more preposterous tactics have actually raised money for her opponent. According to Salon.com, a pro-Bachmann ad that was meant to attack Graves for calling her anti-Islam rhetoric ‘outrageous’ actually raised $8 thousand for the Democrat. And when Michele visited a synagogue in Chicago to raise money, a congregant was inspired to raise funds for her opponent; subsequently, Chicago’s contributions to Graves increased by 400 per cent.
Graves characterizes himself as a pragmatic centrist who can appeal to independents and dissatisfied Republicans as well as Democrats. He touts his bipartisanship, saying that in business, party affiliation doesn’t matter. Bachmann is trying to label him as “Big Spending Jim Graves.” The problem is that he doesn’t have a public record to point to. She does, and her public performance keeps raising questions about her ability to be relevant.
An article follow-up to my last post.
House of Representatives
Committee on Energy and Commerce
When Heather Wiseman began to suffer from bladder infections as a result of her pregnancy, the Walmart sales associate started carrying a water bottle during the day to stay hydrated. But the Walmart that employed Wiseman technically allowed only cashiers to have water bottles, and a note from Wiseman’s doctor made no difference. Caught with a water bottle again, the pregnant Wisemanwas fired from her job in 2007 for insubordination based on her failure to follow the water bottle rule.
Another woman, Victoria Seredny, was told not to move heavy objects — something she did a few minutes a day in her job as a nursing home activities director — by her doctor after a near-miscarriage. When she asked for help, she said her boss refused to allow her colleagues to assist her, even those who volunteered. Serendy was fired soon after for failure to perform her duties.
Both Wiseman and Serendy sued their employers for wrongful termination, and both of them lost their cases. But legislation recently introduced in the Senate could help to prevent situations like this from happening.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), introduced Friday by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), would require employers to make the same kind of workplace accommodations for pregnant women that current law requires them to make for people with disabilities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these are called “reasonable accommodations,” designed so that employees with disabilities can perform the job functions they were hired to do.
Pregnancy, however, is not considered a disability. Instead, pregnant women are protected by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal to fire a woman just because she becomes pregnant. But employers can still refuse to accommodate pregnant women’s basic, temporary medical needs at work, like Wiseman’s request for a water bottle, essentially forcing them to choose between keeping their job and ensuring the health of their unborn child and themselves.
“As more and more women are working longer into their pregnancies, they deserve reasonable accommodations to maintain their safety and health,” Sen. Shaheen said in a statement, adding that the bill would allow women “to work longer and more productively at their jobs while also providing for their families and helping strengthen our economy.”
Women make up approximately half of the U.S. labor force, which includes more than 77 million working women, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Ensuring these women have the opportunity to work well into the third trimester of a pregnancy can be crucial for their families, and even more so for those women in hourly, low-wage jobs. In 2010, 41 percent of working mothers were their family’s primary breadwinner.
A version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in the House of Representatives this spring by New York Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). It currently has 109 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. But even with the added step of the newly-introduced Senate legislation, the bill’s chances of passage remain slim.
The Republican-controlled House has consistently opposed workplace bills like PWFA, which they argue place an unnecessary burden on businesses, lowering overall profits. The Senate is similarly inclined. Earlier this year, all 47 Senate Republicans voted to block a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have facilitated the monitoring of gender disparities in pay, and would have protected employees who ask about pay discrepancies from retaliation. Women in the U.S. currently make about 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.
Apparently it’s not enough that a Republican is claiming that women can’t get pregnant through rape, another GOP congressman is now claiming that little girls who are raped can’t get pregnant either. Rep. Steve King of Iowa seemed to be making that claim during an interview on KMEG-TV.
These idiots are making laws for us. There should be an IQ test for congress. Idiots only back track America.
Criticizing President Barack Obama’s health care reform law on Wednesday, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) likened the requirement that private insurance plans provide contraception coverage to two of the most devastating attacks on American soil.
"I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "One is Dec. 7, that’s Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that’s the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
Wednesday marked the first day private insurers must include birth control coverage in their plans without charging a co-pay, per requirements in the Affordable Care Act. The change will affect most women on private health plans, with some exceptions. More than a dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives, mostly freshmen, held a press conference to blast the law for what they said were violations of religious freedom.
"As this mandate goes into effect, Americans are going to be forced to act against the principles of their faith," said Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.). "This coercion by taxation that this president seems to like must stop and it must come to end now."
The conservative lawmakers’ objections focus on the fact that employees and students with religiously affiliated groups will be able to have access to contraception coverage through their health care plans. A compromise offered by the Obama administration requires insurance companies to offer the coverage directly, so that the employers are removed from the transaction.
Still, the members threw one vitriolic jab after another at the mandate, calling it an attack on freedom and an assault on first amendment rights. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), a Roman Catholic, characterized the law as “thinly veiled religious bigotry.”
"Today is the day religious freedom died in America," Kelly added. His colleague Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) expressed a similar sentiment, saying, "We’re not the land of the free anymore, and we need to get that straight."
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) called the mandate “the largest assault we’ve seen on first amendment rights in the history of our country,” and her colleague Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) called it “unprecedented government coercion in health care.”
"This is not an issue of birth control, it’s an issue of government control," Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) said.
"It’s outrageous that this administration believes it’s within their power to force people to violate their right of religion if it interferes with this administration’s agenda," Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) said. "It should disturb people of all faiths, or for that matter people of no faith at all, that President Obama has such a low opinion of the first amendment that he would trample on these rights."
In addition to the contraception mandate, health insurance plans must now cover additional screenings and services for women without passing on any of the cost to the patient.
"These include services that are essential to helping women stay healthy — such as domestic violence screening, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, gestational diabetes screening, HPV testing, sexually transmitted infection counseling, and HIV screening," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a USA Todayop-ed published Tuesday.
"That’s on top of other potentially life-saving services such as cholesterol screenings and flu shots that many private plans and Medicare have already begun covering with no co-pay thanks to the law."
UPDATE: 3:00 p.m. — Democrats hammered Kelly for his remarks.
"Equating women’s health care and contraception with two of the darkest days in American history is not just wrong — it’s shameful," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D-N.Y.), who has spent the last decade dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. "Hopefully Rep. Kelly will realize his rhetoric doesn’t match the situation. Safe, accessible contraception is a fundamental part of virtually every woman’s health care at some point in their lives."
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose district incudes Ground Zero, said Kelly should apologize.
“For the thousands of Americans who lost their lives on these two horrible days, to the thousands more who put on a uniform to protect this country and ensure that the lives of those lost are not forgotten, to the thousands more who mourned the loss of a loved one or bore witness to those two tragic days in American history, Mike Kelly’s comments are beyond outrageous,” Nadler said in a statement. “To drag the memories of those lost and those still grieving into the culture wars is unforgivable. And to equate those terrible attacks with the safe and legal availability of contraception for women — ostensibly to score political points — is stunning. The American people deserve an apology.”
Amanda Terkel and Mike McAuliff contributed reporting.
Posted: 08/01/2012 1:37 pm Updated: 08/01/2012 3:39 pm
(Source: The Huffington Post)
I can’t say that I’m surprised. With everything else that’s backwards in the country why should adding an amendment like this to a completely unrelated bill be at all unexpected?
July 29, 2012
Even with a persistent gender gap in a presidential election year, House Republicans have not given up on their campaign to narrow access to birth control, abortion care and lifesaving cancer screenings. Far from it.
A new Republican spending proposal revives some of the more extreme attacks on women’s health and freedom that were blocked by the Senate earlier in this Congress. The resurrection is part of an alarming national crusade that goes beyond abortion rights and strikes broadly at women’s health in general.
These setbacks are recycled from the Congressional trash bin in the fiscal 2013 spending bill for federal health, labor and education programs approved by a House appropriations subcommittee on July 18 over loud objections from Democratic members to these and other provisions.
The measure would bar Planned Parenthood’s network of clinics, which serve millions of women across the country, from receiving any federal money unless the health group agreed to no longer offer abortion services for which it uses no federal dollars — a patently unconstitutional provision. It would also eliminate financing for Title X, the effective federal family-planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. Without this program, some women would die, and unintended pregnancies would rise, resulting in some 400,000 more abortions a year and increases in Medicaid-related costs, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health.
On top of that, the bill would prevent implementation of most of the Affordable Care Act, wiping out its numerous advances for women’s health. It would seriously weaken the requirement that employee insurance plans cover birth control and other preventive health services by allowing any employer to opt out based on personal religious beliefs or moral objections.
Pushed by the subcommittee’s chairman, Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican, the budget plan stands little chance of being passed in its current form. Congress is about to leave on its August break, and, without explanation, the full Appropriations Committee’s consideration of the bill has been postponed indefinitely. It may be that Speaker John Boehner wants to avoid a controversy heading toward November that shifts focus from the economy.
Even so, the subcommittee’s anti-woman work product is a statement of Republican policy. It is endorsed by the full committee chairman, Harold Rogers, and will be a starting point for negotiations on a budget deal with the Senate. Furthermore, when Congress puts forth bad ideas to curtail birth control and abortion access, they tend to spread, helping to inspire copycat bills in the states. Since House Republicans first tried to defund Planned Parenthood, for example, similar attacks have been enacted in six states, most recently in North Carolina earlier this month.
There is a striking overlap between the subcommittee’s regressive politics and the policies espoused by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. That makes it a window on what a Romney presidency could mean for women’s rights and lives.
(Source: The New York Times)