Here Are The Sleaziest Things Congress Has Done During The Shutdown

We’re now almost two weeks into the government shutdown, and there’s been no shortage of outrage over the fact that Congress remains unable to figure out how to end it. Recent polling has shown record levels of support for replacing every member of Congress, and lawmakers are now less popular than witches and dog poop.

This level of unpopularity may not come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the actions of Congress. The shutdown, brought on late last month by House Republicans who insisted that any measure to fund the government must also delay or dismantle Obamacare, has taken a nationwide toll on federal workers and programs. With around 800,000 federal employees furloughed without pay and programs for veterans, women and children increasingly becoming hobbled by the congressional impasse, lawmakers have been more successful at upsetting the people they serve than at ending the shutdown.

Here are some of the sleaziest things members of Congress have done so far: Read more

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US government shuts down

117475-obamaUS government agencies were ordered to close for the first time in more than 17 years after Congress stalemated over Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama’s health care law.

US government agencies were ordered to close for the first time in more than 17 years after Congress stalemated over Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama’s health care law.

More than 800,000 federal workers were to spend Tuesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, on unpaid leave as agency managers executed contingency plans for the costly process of closing down operations indefinitely.

The official word to shut down came from the White House just before midnight Monday. Hours earlier, the Senate, by a 54-46 party-line vote, killed a House measure that would have funded government agencies for six weeks but delayed key parts of Obamacare for a year.

Shutdown: What happens now?

It was the second such vote that the Senate took during a day in which the two chambers exchanged volleys of legislation with little expectation that any of it would become law.

The one exception to the legislative futility was a bill to ensure that military service members would be paid during the shutdown. Obama signed it into law late Monday night.

The House’s final legislative effort passed 228-201, mostly along party lines. It would have delayed for one year the requirement in the health care law that individuals have insurance or pay a fine and would have reduced benefits for members of Congress and some of their staff members.

Late at night, Republican leaders moved to set up a House-Senate committee that could seek a compromise in coming days. Democratic leaders asserted that they would not negotiate under duress and insisted that the House first pass a measure temporarily providing funds for government agencies.

Visa panic: Will this affect your travel?

“You know, with a bully you cannot let them slap you around,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the Senate’s initial vote. “They slap you around today, they slap you five or six times. Tomorrow it will be seven or eight times. We are not going to be bullied.”

Obama warned that a shutdown would harm the nation’s economy and vowed that the health care law, his signature domestic policy achievement, would move forward.

Indeed, among the ironies of the standoff is that a shutdown will have no effect on the law the Republicans tried to block. The money to implement the law does not depend on the annual spending bills stuck in the congressional logjam. A major element of Obamacare, online marketplaces that consumers without insurance can use to buy coverage, will open to the public Tuesday.

“That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Obama said during a short appearance earlier in the White House briefing room.

“This is a law that passed both houses of Congress, a law that bears my signature, a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional, a law that voters chose not to repeal last November,” he said, referring to his re-election.

“I’m always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better,” he added. “But one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election.”

Republicans, for their part, insisted that blame for the stalemate fell on Democrats. The president and his party, they said, had put preserving Obamacare ahead of keeping government agencies running.

“Americans didn’t want Obamacare forced on them, and they don’t want a shutdown forced on them either,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Once again, Democrats are unwilling to listen.”

Obama spoke with the four leaders of the House and Senate on Monday evening, including a 10-minute conversation with House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, but neither side indicated progress toward a deal.

Late in the evening, after the Senate’s second set of votes, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the few remaining GOP moderates, urged colleagues to compromise. “There are real lives, real families, laying awake wondering what the rest of the week is going to mean to them,” she said. “It’s not just about the next election.”

But on both sides, many more lawmakers were looking beyond Monday’s midnight deadline and focusing on which party would bear the brunt of public anger if a standoff disrupts government services.

The stalemate happened because Congress failed to pass any of the annual laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for government agencies. Federal law says agencies cannot spend money without an appropriation except when necessary to protect life or property, or in cases of programs that have permanent sources of funds.

Widespread disruption of services probably will not occur for a while. Many basic government functions do not depend on annual spending bills. Social Security cheques will go out as always, for example, as will payments under Medicare. Mail delivery will be unaffected. Courts, which have reserve funds that can last for some time, will still hear cases.

But as other government functions close, economists say, a prolonged shutdown will slow growth. A two-week standoff would shave about three-tenths of a percentage point off the current growth rate, projections indicate. Although not huge, that punch would sting in an economy expanding at less than 2 percent per year. A longer standoff would cut growth more.

The last time the government closed, during the Clinton administration, two shutdowns took place. One lasted five days; the other, affecting only part of the government, ran three weeks.

Who gets the political blame for a shutdown will have a big impact on how the standoff ends.

Nearly all Democratic strategists and many Republican ones think Democrats hold the upper hand in the current fight, indicating that Republicans would eventually have to yield. Polls so far have indicated that Americans are somewhat more likely to blame congressional Republicans than Obama for the stalemate, although the advantage Democrats have is much smaller than the one they enjoyed in the Clinton-era standoff.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday showed majorities of the public disapproving of the way all the major actors in the budget drama have handled their roles, but giving congressional Republicans the worst reviews. Obama got the approval of 41 percent and the disapproval of 50 percent. Congressional Republicans got just 26 percent approval and 63 percent disapproval; congressional Democrats, 34 percent approval and 56 percent disapproval.

Some conservative Republicans argue that Obamacare’s unpopularity ultimately will give them an advantage. Although polls show the health law is unpopular, the same surveys show the public does not support shutting down the government to block it.

In a CNN/ORC poll also released Monday, for example, Americans said, 60 percent to 34 percent, that it was “more important” for Congress to pass “a budget agreement that would avoid a government shutdown” than to approve legislation “preventing major provisions in the new health care law from taking effect.”

As several polls have shown, Democrats remain largely united behind Obama, but significant numbers of Republicans disapprove of their party’s leaders. That has proved true in Congress as well. Relatively conservative Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, have consistently voted with Reid during the current standoff. By contrast, divisions on the Republican side have been open and bitter and continued to plague the party Monday.

In closed-door meetings, some of the most conservative members objected to the leadership’s plans on the grounds that the latest House proposal would delay only part of Obamacare – the requirement that individuals buy health insurance – rather than the entire law.

On the other side, a group of Republicans, mostly from Northeastern and Midwestern states, said they believed the GOP should drop its efforts to block Obamacare and simply approve a measure to keep government agencies open. The group failed to round up enough support to block the Republican leadership’s plans on Monday, but it could become a factor if the standoff drags on.

The party’s current strategy is “a dead end,” said Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y. “We’re going to shut the government down, and, when all is said and done, we’re going to get blamed for it.

“We have too many people who live in their own echo chamber.”

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Dem Congressman Charges Obama With Syrian Intelligence Scandal

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, once among the most ardent supporters of the Obama White House, is breaking ranks and calling out the Obama administration for manipulating intelligence data in order to convince lawmakers to allow military action against Syria. While such accusations have been whispered for day behind closed doors, Grayson is among the first lawmakers to make them public, and the accusation itself is possibly the most serious ever leveled against the administration among a member of the president’s own political party.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who is aggressively lobbying against a military strike on Syria, says the Obama administration has manipulated intelligence to push its case for U.S. involvement in the country’s two-year civil war.

Mr. Obama Suffers From “Severe Detachment From Reality”
Grayson made the accusation in an interview published Wednesday by The Atlantic and offered more detail in a Thursday discussion with U.S. News. He says members of Congress are being given intelligence briefings without any evidence to support administration claims that Syrian leader Bashar Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons.

Grayson said he cannot discuss the classified briefings, but noted details in the administration’s public, non-classified report are being contested.
The White House released its four-page public report Aug. 30, arguing that Assad’s government killed 1,429 people on Aug. 21 with a planned chemical weapon attack. Evidence cited in that report included “intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used.”

Grayson, however, says “the claim has been made that that information was completely mischaracterized.”

He points to an article published by The Daily Caller that alleges the communications actually showed Syrian officers were surprised by the alleged chemical weapon attack. The communications, according to unnamed sources paraphrased in article, were intercepted by Israeli intelligence and “doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion.”

“What they say in The Daily Caller is that [intercepted communications] would lead one to the opposite conclusion,” Grayson said. “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, [but] there’s a very simple way to find out, that’s for the administration to show me and other members of Congress” translated transcripts of the intercepts, he said.

Members of Congress are “not being given any of the underlying elements of the intelligence reports,” according to Grayson. He’s not sure if the information will come before the votes on a proposed strike next week.

The anti-war Democrat said there are other examples of intelligence he believes has been manipulated to favor war.

“Well yes,” Grayson said, “but I’m very constrained about talking about it. … This has become a fundamental problem with our system: The information we do get is limited, but beyond that we are very constrained in discussing it.”

…”We can’t go to war to spare anyone embarrassment,” Grayson told U.S. News. “That would be utterly immoral, we’re talking about shedding American blood. … The president has already made that argument and it’s falling on deaf ears.” LINK

This was the line that really jumped out for me:“…the communications actually showed Syrian officers were surprised by the alleged chemical weapon attack. ”If true, this would strongly support corroborate information coming from Russia, and explain other U.S. ally nations’ unwillingness to support a military strike against Syria. Now consider that reader – either the Obama White House is willing to place American lives at risk on the basis of a lie, or at best, or they are equally willing to do so without doing any real due diligence to fine out the facts. The motivation for THAT scenario points to something much deeper, and likely far more troubling, than the potential Syrian conflict alone.

The one year anniversary of the Benghazi Massacre is quickly approaching…

Obama Reduces Pay Hike for U.S. Troops, Still Fighting in Afghanistan

(CNSNews.com) – As promised in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, President Obama has just informed Congress that he will cap next year’s pay raise for U.S. military personnel at 1 percent, instead of the 1.8 percent raise set by the formula Congress established.

The announcement came on Friday afternoon, at the start of the long Labor Day weekend, in a letter to Congress.

“I am strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our Nation over the past decade of war,” President Obama wrote to congressional leaders. “As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our Nation on a sustainable fiscal course. This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints faced by Federal agencies.”

Obama said he has decided to “exercise my authority under section 1009(e) of title 37, United States Code, to set the 2014 monthly basic pay increase at 1.0 percent” for members of the military.

“This decision is consistent with my fiscal year 2014 Budget and will not materially affect the Federal Government’s ability to attract and retain well-qualified members for the uniformed services,” Obama wrote.

Underground Politics.dotorg

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