Monday, April 08, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates bluebonnets, mudbugs, and the first week of the baseball season in bringing you this week's blog post roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look back at the Democrats in the Legislature who voted for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment of 2005 and follows up to see where they stand on it now.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts on the budget debate in the House this week, and the fact that there was little discussion of what Texans really need, in Still trying to find a way in...the budget version.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains why Senator Cruz Brings Plenty of Spite But No Bacon. Check it out.

The Republicans in the Texas House passed an amendment that kinda sorta endorsed the spirit of Medicaid expansion, but within a few hours got 'corrected' by their lobbyists and rescinded it. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs kind sorta expected that.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Rick Perry implies Mexicans shot the Texas DAs. Didn't Perry get the Reince Priebus memo about gratuitous racist eruptions?


And here are some blog posts of interest from elsewhere in Texas.

The Lunch Tray is a food blogger against hunger.

Bob Cavnar explains some lesser known dangers of fracking.  And Texas Vox says that the pipeline spill in Arkansas calls into question the viability of converting other older pipelines for transporting tar sands, while the Tar Sands Blockade posted a dispatch from ExxonMobil's spill zone, including a WTF picture of a pipeline repair.

Juanita Jean has a question for the queen of True The Vote.

Equality Texas reminds us that it's always a good idea to get to know your legislator.

Jason Stanford has a strategy for coping with the STAAR tests, while Raise Your Hand Texas outlines an agenda for real school reform. 

Austin Contrarian publishes a response from Sen. Kirk Watson to an earlier post about one of his bills.
Texas Leftist talks to the city of Houston about plans to overhaul its development and density ordinances.

Harold Cook channels William Travis.

And finally, we wish fellow blogger Katy Anders a peaceful and short sabbatical.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Obama drops his pants before GOP again

I am so sick of this shit.

President Obama will release a budget next week that proposes significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security and fewer tax hikes than in the past, a conciliatory approach that he hopes will convince Republicans to sign onto a grand bargain that would curb government borrowing and replace deep spending cuts that took effect March 1.

When he unveils the budget on Wednesday, Obama will break with the tradition of providing a sweeping vision of his ideal spending priorities, untethered from political realities. Instead, the document will incorporate the compromise offer Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last December in the discussions over the so-called “fiscal cliff” – which included $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases.

Now it's up to the Republicans in Congress to save us by saying 'no'.

While Republicans are certain to be skeptical of Obama’s call for more taxes, the president also is likely to face immediate heat over his budget proposal from some Democrats and liberal supporters. Obama proposes, for instance, to change the cost-of-living calculation for Social Security in a way that will reduce benefits for most beneficiaries, a key Republican request that he had earlier embraced only as part of a compromise. Many Democrats say they are opposed to any Social Security cuts and are likely to be furious that such cuts are now being proposed as official administration policy.

Obama isn't playing 3-D chess here with the Enterprise crew Congress members wearing red shirts. If they call his bluff, everybody that voted for him five months ago -- and some of us who did not -- are well and truly fucked.

Neither the president nor senior aides privately hold much hope that Republican leaders — Mr. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader — will compromise. So Mr. Obama’s strategy of reaching out to other Senate Republicans reflects a calculation that enough of them might cut a budget deal with the Democratic Senate majority. If that happens, the reasoning goes, a Senate-passed compromise would put pressure on the House to go along. 

That account suggests nothing significant is likely to happen, and places faith in the president's ability to outmaneuver the dim-witted conservatives by getting them to swallow a poison pill. I don't have that much faith in the president's ability, needless to say.

To me it seems as dangerous as flying planes over South Korea in order to help the North Koreans thoughtfully arrive at a decision to tone down their hysteria. What happens if the bad guys don't get the message? What if there are enough Republicans who decide to take the Faustian bargain of tax increases for social program cuts? Is Obama's Plan B to renege on the offer?

The president is too persistent in applying cosmetics to the swine.

I'm sick and tired of being sold down the river by Democrats trying to reason with Republicans. The pigs are annoyed with your effort, Mr. President, and so are a wide swath of your fellow travelers. Cut. it. out.


Now that Obama has fully embraced the cuts, no amount of White House spin is going to be able to permanently pin the chained CPI on Republicans, as the administration official is trying to do. Republicans have been demanding for months that Obama specifically spell out the cuts to social insurance programs he would accept; now he's done so, they will make sure he owns them.

The White House seems to believe that this will show the American public that he is Very Serious about both deficit reduction and working with Republicans, that "he is willing to compromise and do tough things to reduce the deficit,” in the words of a senior administration official. Because of course a willingness to compromise is all that it takes to make the Republicans come around. That and his charm offensive.

Republicans aren't going to come around, and now have a weapon. And what the American people will probably remember is that in 2008 candidate Obama promised that as president, he would not cut Social Security, a promise reiterated by Vice President Biden in 2012. In fact, we're probably not going to be allowed to forget that, once the Republicans get their ads running in congressional districts around the country saying that Barack Obama broke his promise and wants to cut your Social Security.

Update II: Boehner rejects president's proposal. Moneyshot...

A senior Senate GOP aide said Republicans are translating the White House budget proposal as a signal to Senate Democrats that they must accept benefit cuts.

“The fact that chained CPI is in there, Republicans will take that as a signal that the White House is willing to use chained CPI as an offset,” the aide said. “It seems to me that the White House is sort of telling Senate Democrats to get used to it.”

Texas House head-fakes on Medicaid expansion

Buried in the good news about the death of school vouchers coming out of yesterday evening's state budget marathon is the sad fact that House members passed -- and later rescinded -- consideration of a discussion about the possibility of Medicaid expansion.

If that description sounds convoluted, it's because the debate in Austin was also. To Olivia Messer of the Observer...

For a brief few hours on Thursday, members of the Texas House endorsed a version of Medicaid expansion—or at least some parameters for it—but then changed their minds.

The title of that piece has the words "flip-flop" in it. Which is an appropriate description of what happened.

As Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribune reported, the amendment wouldn’t have even directed HHSC to expand Medicaid. Rather if the state negotiated with the Obama administration to expand eligibility, the amendment said, Texas would’ve had to reduce “uncompensated care costs, [promote] the use of private insurance plans and health savings accounts, and [establish] wellness, cost-sharing and pay-for-performance initiatives. It also called for creating customized benefit plans for different Medicaid populations. The Legislative Budget Board would have been charged with determining whether such a deal addresses those reforms.”

The House initially approved the amendment Thursday afternoon. But just a few short hours after the amendment passed, Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) proposed that the House reconsider the vote. Though Morrison initially voted in favor, she later argued vehemently that she hadn’t been “clear on what the amendment does” and that other Republicans had been similarly confused. “I want to have a discussion and then make the decision.”

The amendment was sponsored by Burnham, the lower chamber's most progressive member, and supported by Republican John Zerwas, whom I have written about previously.

House Democrats and Republicans both rose to defend the measure and to prevent reconsideration—the parliamentary version of a do-over. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) said, “What we’re doing here might be the most we’re ever going to do on [Medicaid].” Burnam pointed out that the measure was actually quite similar to language  Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) had proposed for the Senate version of the budget (and which was approved) two weeks ago. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton), who collaborated with Burnam on the amendment, took to the microphone to clarify that “it’s really not a Medicaid expansion at all.”

Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) said that the amendment would certainly not ensure passage of Medicaid expansion, since Gov. Perry has so clearly opposed it anyway. “The governor has stated quite clearly that there will be no Medicaid expansion as is proposed,” he said. “If he ever tells you that he will veto something, it’s not a threat, it’s a promise.”

Even still, the floor voted 93-54 to reconsider the amendment.

I'd really like to know the backstory here. I'm going to speculate that somebody (-bodies) got bum-rushed by the governor or some of his hoods at the right-wing think tanks. I can't tell from the coverage how many members voted to approve the amendment initially and then switched their vote, but that will eventually be revealed.

As Burnam notes, the proposal remains in the Senate's version.

“It’s still in the Senate amendment,” Burnam said. “It’ll go to conference and people will talk about whether we remain open-minded and try and figure out a way to work with the national government that’s throwing out some of this money or do we just kiss it off?”

But the stench of ignorance hangs in the air like a... well, you know.

When asked if he bought the argument that Republicans truly didn’t understand what the amendment was about, Burnam said, “Unfortunately, that’s right. Unfortunately, they’re so closed-minded and bigoted and so not understanding about Obamacare that they just went along because the leadership was for it.”

So it seems that what we have here is legislators taking a vote on something that they apparently didn't fully understand. And when they got whipped by the "Obamacare is eee-vil" thugs, then they suddenly got themselves back in the far right line. So now, Medicaid expansion will probably die a slow death in some back committee room. That's a metaphor for what's going to happen to the poor, ill Texans who can't afford to get healthcare as it stands. This is the outcome I both dreaded and predicted.

Congratulations to the advocates of Texas education on finding some sanity in the Texas House with respect to vouchers. But as for the po' folks... too bad for you.

I suppose they should hire better lobbyists in the next session.