Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
The November 6th elections saw a lot of historic decisions made in the United States -- the first black president re-elected, marijuana legalized for the first time in two states, gay marriage affirmed by the voters in four, and even the first openly gay senator. But perhaps the most underreported result yesterday came from outside the country altogether: in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a solid majority voted to reject the island's current status and join America as the long-fabled 51st state. How the bid might fare in Congress is an open question, but both President Obama and Republican leaders have vowed support for the statehood movement if it proves successful at the ballot box (while D.C. officials ponder a two-fer gambit to grease the wheels). Though it would be the poorest state, joining the Union might bring economic benefits to both sides [PDF]. And politically, some argue the island might prove to be a reliably red state, despite the Hispanic population, although arch-conservative governor and Romney ally Luis Fortuño appears headed toward a narrow loss. But the most important question here, as always, is: how to redesign the flag? (Puerto Rican statehood discussed previously.)
Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy writes SciAm, as part of their election coverage, which also includes rating two candidates' answers on particular sciencey topics (full replies here, marking sheet here), as well as inquiring about the positions of other congress critters. Use 'Print' button for single page presentation
"Republicans stand the chance of controlling Congress for the rest of the decade if they don't screw it up."
"The Republicans’ dominance in races throughout the country in the 2010 elections eviscerated the Democrats’ farm teams in state after state." Former Bill Clinton political director Doug Sosnik offers an 8-page analysis of the U.S. election that discusses the likelihood of an Obama win, the chances of a complete Republican takeover of Congress, continued Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures for the rest of the decade, and more. There's also a related slideshow. [more inside]
Calls are growing for a special counsel to investigate leaks of classified information by the Obama administration. Concerns have been raised over leaks involving classified information on cyberwarfare, infiltration of an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen, and drone warfare procedures. [more inside]
Presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation can be made without confirmation by the President when the chamber is in recess: a so-called recess appointment, wherein the appointee is allowed to serve until the end of the next congressional session. During the Bush II administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began holding pro forma sessions every three days—a local Senator gavels the session in and immediately back out—to ensure that the Senate never went into recess and as a result, Bush stopped confirming recess appointments. When the Obama administration took over, the Republicans began holding the same pro forma sessions to prevent Obama from appointing any positions in recess. This week, Obama made four appointments, including Richard Cordray to the newly created role of director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, despite the fact that the Senate is not in technical recess. [more inside]
In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf] President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.Now, the New York Times reports that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. [more inside]
USA PATRIOT is up for renewal again. Tim Nichols of the Independent Examiner reports that "nobody notices" as Mike Rogers (R-MI) floats the renewal. As we noted last year during another quiet renewal, this is not the first time the Obama administration has been confronted with the idea. While groups as disparate as the Cato Institute and the Randolph Bourne Institute's antiwar.com speak out against the possibility, mainstream media sources seem uninterested.
Since 10:24 AM ET, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has held "a filibuster [or] a very long speech" on the tax cut deal brokered between the president and congressional Republicans. Watch it live on C-SPAN 2. Vermont's Peter Welch leads the charge against the deal in the House. The President has called his opponents "sanctimonious" and "unrealistic."
Landmark health care reform legislation passes senate on a Christmas-eve party line vote. So after a turbulent and contentious legislative process with many sudden reversals and last minute surprises, what's actually in the bill? NPR offers a "Consumer's Guide" to the form the final, reconciled legislation now seems likeliest to take. [more inside]
State of the debate filter: Harry Reid is looking like a giant waffle iron. Congress is getting crushed with phone calls. A G.E. healthcare exec, says "Shit or get off the pot already." The insurance industry says, "Back up off a deez!" And people aren't wavering in their support of a public option. [more inside]
People are starting to get a little worn out on Healthcare coverage, or at least, a little worn out on the way it's been covered. Thank god our own grrarrgh00 isn't listening. Because someone has to spread the truth about Obama's nazi socialist communist granny killing satanist witchcraft healthcare reform.
A list of cut, halved, and quartered items from the Senate version of the stimulus bill was released to CNN. [more inside]
The President's hero is a 68-year old preacher, fearless civil rights activist, and Congressman named John Lewis. [more inside]
Wired: Obama Sides With Bush in Spy Case. "The Obama administration fell in line with the Bush administration Thursday when it urged a federal judge to set aside a ruling in a closely watched spy case weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants."
In trademark style, Lawrence Lessig today announced the creation of a congressional exploratory committee. If in the next few days he decides to officially enter the race, he'll be running in the special election on April 8th to fill the CA-12 seat recently vacated by the death of Tom Lantos. A run by Lessig would likely be seen as a new front the the technocratic, post-partisan movement Barack Obama is attempting to catalyze; Lessig was a colleague of Obama at the University of Chicago law school, helped to draft Obama's technology plan, and is describing his potential run (his first attempt at public office), and the larger Change Congress project he also announced today, as an attempt to save Congress as an institution from the corrupting influence of money. [more inside]