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230 posts from July 2011

July 31, 2011

The White House debt-deal 'fact sheet.' When will we see a bill?

A White House press release on the debt deal:

The debt deal announced today is a victory for bipartisan compromise, for the economy and for the American people. The agreement:

·         Removes the cloud of uncertainty over our economy at this critical time, by ensuring that no one will be able to use the threat of the nation’s first default now, or in only a few months, for political gain;

 ·         Locks in a down payment on significant deficit reduction, with savings from both domestic and Pentagon spending, and is designed to protect crucial investments like aid for college students;

·         Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;


·         Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;

·         Stays true to the President’s commitment to shared sacrifice by preventing the middle class, seniors and those who are most vulnerable from shouldering the burden of deficit reduction. The President did not agree to any entitlement reforms outside of the context of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform will be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks.


Mechanics of the Debt Deal


·         Immediately enacted 10-year discretionary spending caps generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction; balanced between defense and non-defense spending.

·         President authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for further increases until 2013.  

·         Bipartisan committee process tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform. Committee is required to report legislation by November 23, 2011, which receives fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.

 ·         Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts.    


·         Deal Removes Cloud of Uncertainty Until 2013, Eliminating Key Headwind on the Economy: Independent analysts, economists, and ratings agencies have all made clear that a short-term debt limit increase would create unacceptable economic uncertainty by risking default again within only a matter of months and as S&P stated, increase the chance of a downgrade. By ensuring a debt limit increase of at least $2.1 trillion, this deal removes the specter of default, providing important certainty to our economy at a fragile moment. 

·         Mechanism to Ensure Further Deficit Reduction is Designed to Phase-In Beginning in 2013 to Avoid Harming the Recovery: The deal includes a mechanism to ensure additional deficit reduction, consistent with the economic recovery. The enforcement mechanism would not be made effective until 2013, avoiding any immediate contraction that could harm the recovery. And savings from the down payment will be enacted over 10 years, consistent with supporting the economic recovery.


·         More than $900 Billion in Savings over 10 Years By Capping Discretionary Spending: The deal includes caps on discretionary spending that will produce more than $900 billion in savings over the next 10 years compared to the CBO March baseline, even as it protects core investments from deep and economically damaging cuts. 

 ·         Includes Savings of $350 Billion from the Base Defense Budget – the First Defense Cut Since the 1990s: The deal puts us on track to cut $350 billion from the defense budget over 10 years. These reductions will be implemented based on the outcome of a review of our missions, roles, and capabilities that will reflect the President’s commitment to protecting our national security. 

 ·         Reduces Domestic Discretionary Spending to the Lowest Level Since Eisenhower: These discretionary caps will put us on track to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. 

·         Includes Funding to Protect the President’s Historic Investment in Pell Grants: Since taking office, the President has increased the maximum Pell award by $819 to a maximum award $5,550, helping over 9 million students pay for college tuition bills. The deal provides specific protection in the discretionary budget to ensure that the there will be sufficient funding for the President’s historic investment in Pell Grants without undermining other critical investments.


·         The Deal Locks in a Process to Enact $1.5 Trillion in Additional Deficit Reduction Through a Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Committee: The deal creates a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Committee that is charged with enacting $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction by the end of the year. This Committee will work without the looming specter of default, ensuring time to carefully consider essential reforms without the disruption and brinksmanship of the past few months.

·         This Committee is Empowered Beyond Previous Bipartisan Attempts at Deficit Reduction: Any recommendation of the Committee would be given fast-track privilege in the House and Senate, assuring it of an up or down vote and preventing some from using procedural gimmicks to block action.

·         To Meet This Target, the Committee Will Consider Responsible Entitlement and Tax Reform. This means putting all the priorities of both parties on the table – including both entitlement reform and revenue-raising tax reform.


 ·         The Deal Includes An Automatic Sequester to Ensure That At Least $1.2 Trillion in Deficit Reduction Is Achieved By 2013 Beyond the Discretionary Caps: The deal includes an automatic sequester on certain spending programs to ensure that—between the Committee and the trigger—we at least put in place an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by 2013.

 ·         Consistent With Past Practice, Sequester Would Be Divided Equally Between Defense and Non-Defense Programs and Exempt Social Security, Medicaid, and Low-Income Programs: Consistent with the bipartisan precedents established in the 1980s and 1990s, the sequester would be divided equally between defense and non-defense program, and it would exempt Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, programs for low-income families, and civilian and military retirement. Likewise, any cuts to Medicare would be capped and limited to the provider side.

 ·         Sequester Would Provide a Strong Incentive for Both Sides to Come to the Table:  If the fiscal committee took no action, the deal would automatically add nearly $500 billion in defense cuts on top of cuts already made, and, at the same time, it would cut critical programs like infrastructure or education.  That outcome would be unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alike – creating pressure for a bipartisan agreement without requiring the threat of a default with unthinkable consequences for our economy.


·         The Deal Sets the Stage for Balanced Deficit Reduction, Consistent with the President’s Values: The deal is designed to achieve balanced deficit reduction, consistent with the values the President articulated in his April Fiscal Framework. The discretionary savings are spread between both domestic and defense spending. And the President will demand that the Committee pursue a balanced deficit reduction package, where any entitlement reforms are coupled with revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice.  

 ·         The Enforcement Mechanism Complements the Forcing Event Already In Law – the Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts – To Create Pressure for a Balanced Deal: The Bush tax cuts expire as of 1/1/2013, the same date that the spending sequester would go into effect. These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts.

·         In Securing this Bipartisan Deal, the President Rejected Proposals that Would Have Placed the Sole Burden of Deficit Reduction on Low-Income or Middle-Class Families: The President stood firmly against proposals that would have placed the sole burden of deficit reduction on lower-income and middle-class families. This includes not only proposals in the House Republican Budget that would have undermined the core commitments of Medicare to our seniors and forced tens of millions of low-income Americans to go without health insurance, but also enforcement mechanisms that would have forced automatic cuts to low-income programs. The enforcement mechanism in the deal exempts Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare benefits, unemployment insurance, programs for low-income families, and civilian and military retirement.


President Barack Obama's remarks on the debt deal


 James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

8:40 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  There are still some very important votes to be taken by members of Congress, but I want to announce that the leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default -- a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy.

 The first part of this agreement will cut about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years -- cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in this process.  The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President -- but at a level that still allows us to make job-creating investments in things like education and research.  We also made sure that these cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on a fragile economy. 

 Now, I've said from the beginning that the ultimate solution to our deficit problem must be balanced.  Despite what some Republicans have argued, I believe that we have to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions.  Despite what some in my own party have argued, I believe that we need to make some modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to ensure that they’re still around for future generations. 

 That's why the second part of this agreement is so important.  It establishes a bipartisan committee of Congress to report back by November with a proposal to further reduce the deficit, which will then be put before the entire Congress for an up or down vote.  In this stage, everything will be on the table. To hold us all accountable for making these reforms, tough cuts that both parties would find objectionable would automatically go into effect if we don’t act.  And over the next few months, I’ll continue to make a detailed case to these lawmakers about why I believe a balanced approach is necessary to finish the job. 

Continue reading "President Barack Obama's remarks on the debt deal" »

The debt 'plan:' Few details. Lots of spin. Uncertainty

Tweaks to Medicare. No tax increases. A delayed vote on the tough decisions. More wrangling. Little detail (yet).

Now that he announced a debt deal, President Obama and every pol running for every major office has to explain their positions and why.

"Now, is this the deal I would have preferred?  No, " Obama said.  (Michele Bachmann looks like a hell no, and Jon Huntsman was a reluctant yes).

This appears certain right now: $900 billion is being added to $14 trillion in debt. About $1 trillion is supposed to be cut, but we'll see if that really happens. 

The bill wasn't immediately available after Obama's remarks. When deals are hatched in secrecy, there's often mischief and sloppiness. And there's opportunity. If Congress says no, Obama could decide to raise the debt ceiling on his own and see if he gets sued. 

 A White House talking-point 'fact sheet'was released an hour and 20 minutes after he spoke. 

From AP's breaking story

Racing the clock to avoid a government default, President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders reached historic agreement Sunday night on a compromise to permit vital U.S. borrowing by the Treasury in exchange for more than $2 trillion in long-term spending cuts.

Officials said Speaker John Boehner telephoned Obama at mid-evening to say the agreement had been struck.

No votes were expected in either house of Congress until Monday at the earliest, to give rank and file lawmakers to review the package.

Here's the text of Obama's speech. In some ways, this sounds similar to a Sen. Bill Nelson proposal late last week when he called for a two-step plan. John Boehner's point of view is here.

In the short-term, the deal looks like a GOP win. All cuts, it seems. So the debate about the stimulus (spending out of a recession) is officially dead this campaign season. The Bush-era tax cuts, though, expire without an affirmative Congressional vote, or Obama's signature. That could be a liberal/centrist trump card.

Now a "Supercommittee" will come up with recommendations. Congress is to vote up or down on that debt plan (without a Senate filibuster threat it appears).

"This would be an election year disaster for both parties," former Republican Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee said on FOX moments after the announcement. He said Repubs would balk at cutting defense. Dems would be worried about Medicare cuts. 'But maybe that's why it works,' he said.

And yes, both parties are to blame and drip with hypocrisy. But Republican members of Congress were more vocal about debt under Obama than under Bush, when the GOP repeatedly voted in lockstep to raise the debt ceiling.

Here's why: Two wars. Tax cuts. A new Medicare entitlement program. A bank bailout. All under a Republican president. Then came Obama, the stimulus and the effects of rescuing Detroit. And Dems then voted to temporarily keep the Bush-era tax cuts that they're now partly targeting.

Eat cake. Lose weight. 

If Congress stalls on this plan, President Obama, who has taken a beating in the polls, could use this as an opportunity to campaign against the much-loathed body of pols (if not the entire Republican Party). Or it could be a "disaster" for him, too. Right now, his policy positions have been on the right side of public opinion. But that hasn't helped so far.

In some ways, polls are the problem because the American people are a big part of the problem. Polls show we want no major cuts, no tax increases and more spending on pricey programs we like. Congress is doing what any smart pol does: panders.

And we eat it up like cake. But we don't lose weight.

Hold the peas, Mr. President.

Will Newsmax mogul Chris Ruddy run for U.S. Senate? Maybe. Maybe not.

'You never say never," said Chris Ruddy, a 46-year-old media entrepreneur, when asked if he'd run for U.S. Senate.

In giving his answer, the founder of the wildly successful conservative Newsmax was channelling his best Jeb Bush, who refused to all but rule out a presidential bid on Sean Hannity's FOX show a few days back. Remember: Bush said appearing on Dancing with the Stars was not unlikely, either. And neither Bush nor Ruddy are ready to tango with voters.

"I'd say it's unlikely," Ruddy said of a run. Conservative attack dog Roger Stone (who favors another millionaire, Nick Loeb) reported on Twitter that Ruddy, though, is still considering the bid. True. Ruddy wouldn't rule out a run for some public office, either this year or in the future.

Here's a big reason why: Tony Fabrizio might be in Ruddy's corner. Fabrizio, mastermind behind Gov. Rick Scott's improbable 2010 victory, was spotted dining with Ruddy at Macaluso's in South Beach on Friday. It's the same Italian restaurant where Fabrizio had a sit-down with Scott and his family before he decided to make the plunge.

Unlike Scott, Ruddy wouldn't come to the race with the baggage of bad press clips. In fact, Ruddy used to produce them about President Bill Clinton and the like when he wrote for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. He's also probably not as wealthy as Scott, but Ruddy likely has millions. And it could cost about $25 million for him to win a Senate seat. He'd have to best Republican frontrunners Adam Hasner and George LeMieux and then take on incumbent Bill Nelson, a Democrat.

Like Scott, Ruddy's a political newcomer. So he doesn't have a record like Hasner's vote to raise taxes in 2009 or LeMieux's "I'm a Charlie Crist Republican" legacy.

But Ruddy also has a growing media empire to run. Newsmax has become one of the most influential publications in conservative circles. It even considered buying Newsweek. Ruddy was backing Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos for Senate before he withdrew from the race earlier this month.

Ruddy and Loeb aren't the only newcomers whispered about in Republican circles. Peter Schiff, a financial guru who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in Connecticut last year, was rumored to be considering a bid as well. His spokesman and brother, Andrew Schiff, threw cold water on the idea. Schiff was one of the first voices on cable to predict with chilling accuracy the recession (click here to watch him make Art Laffer look clueless on the economy).

Schiff has a home in Boca Raton. Loeb has a home in Delray Beach. Hasner is from Delray, too. And Ruddy lives in West Palm Beach. What's in the water in Palm Beach County?


July 30, 2011

Miguel Machado, exile and former Miami boy, to head Florida Medical Association

Dr. Miguel A. Machado was 14 years old when his mother kissed him goodbye, and sent him to Miami by way of Spain to flee Castro's Cuba in 1966. Later, his sister went straight to work after graduating to pay for his med school.

On Saturday, Machado, 59, recalled the struggles and the sacrifices of those two strong women when he became the 135th president of the Florida Medical Association, one of the oldest and most powerful lobbies in the state Capitol.

From a press release:

“It is a great honor to serve as President of the FMA at this critical time in organized medicine,” Machado said. “Serving the over 20,000 members of the FMA is a humbling but exciting opportunity.”

Dr. Machado is a longtime, active member of both the FMA and the FMA PAC, holding numerous leadership positions in both organizations. He has served as a member of the FMA Board of Governors and the FMA PAC Board of Directors, Chair of the Council on Legislation, and Delegate to the American Medical Association. In 2007, he received the Certificate of Merit, which is the FMA’s highest honor.

Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Dr. Machado came to the United States when he was 14 years old and lived in Miami. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) in 1977, he completed a surgical internship at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore. Dr. Machado then completed his neurosurgical residency at the University of Maryland hospital in Baltimore in 1985. He is in private practice in St. Augustine.

In addition to his FMA involvement, Dr. Machado is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Latin American Society of Neurological Surgeons (U.S. Chapter), the Physician Association of Clinics, Hospitals, and Annex, the Sociedad Antiguos Estudiantes (University of Zaragoza), and the University of Maryland Surgical Society.

Dr. Machado has three children, Miguel III, Minela, and Lourdes

Gov. Rick Scott hosts abortion bill event at mansion

Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday hosted a celebration of the four new laws intended to limit access to abortion. Dozens of pro-life activists gathered at the manion for the event, along with several of the bill's sponsors and supporters , including representatives Matt Gaetz, Rachel Burgin, Dennis Baxley, Larry Ahern, Elizabeth Porter, Kelli Stargel and Keith Perry.

Asked why he held the bill-signing ceremony a month after the laws went into effect, Scott said: "A lot of people put a lot of effort into these things. I think they want to have an event to memorialize it. For these bills, a lot of these people have worked on these bills for years and years, and it's a way for them to celebrate the accomplishments." 

Lawmakers passed five abortion-related bills in the 2011 session. One requires women to receive an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion and be offered the opportunity to have it described to her. Another tightens requiremens for parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. A third prohibits insurance policies created through the federal health care law from covering abortions, and the fourth redirects proceeds from Choose Life license plates from counties to Choose Life, Inc., which counsels pregnant women. Lawmakers also passed a bill proposing a Constitutional amendment, which doesn't require the governor's signature, that would prohibit using tax dollars to pay for abortions.

"It would be hard to top this session for the pro-life cause. We had great success," Gaetz said.

Asked what his response it to those who say the laws limit choice for women, Gov. Scott referred to the ultrasound bill, passed by a previous Legislature but vetoed by then Gov. Charlie Crist. "You should have the opportunity to see see an ultrasound of your child," Scott said. "It's your choice. You don't have to. This creates choice. I think it's very positive."

CNN: Obama has Twitter troubles, too; loses followers from debt-spamming

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign really wanted to put the heat on Republicans, so it took to Twitter and asked followers to urge a deal. Considering that Obama's popularity numbers are tanking, it seemed like a good idea to reach out to followers directly.

"Let your members of Congress know, make a phone call, send an e-mail, tweet, keep the pressure on Washington and we can get past this," said @BarackObama.

But as CNN reports, the plan back-fired -- or back-twittered. @BarackObama might have lost more than 33,000 followers. Albeit, the report relies on the data for the twitter handle @whitehousepresscorps, which is tough to find. And it could be just a statistical blip, especially compared to the 9,365,436 current followers of @BarackObama. 

Some Republicans seem to appreciate the combat. Lakeland Rep. Dennis Ross (a must-follow, fyi) tweeted "Dear #Obamatons you are ruining my interactions with thoughtful democrats with this spam. And U R hurting your President." 


July 29, 2011

Bring on balanaced budget amendment, say Rick Scott, Mike Haridopolos, Dean Cannon

From a press release (which might be premature, considering the U.S. Senate might not go along

Tallahassee, Fla. – Following the news today that a requirement for a federal Balanced Budget Amendment has been included in the House of Representatives’ federal debt reduction proposal, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and House Speaker Dean Cannon released the following statements:


“I applaud the proposal released today to require a federal Balanced Budget Amendment as a part of the debt reduction package in the House of Representatives.  It is time for the federal government to begin making the tough choices Americans expect to end irresponsible spending and the crushing national debt.

“I am committed to working with our legislative leaders to ensure that if Congress passes a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution, Florida will be the first state to set a Special Session to ratify it. This is exactly the type of reform that Floridians have been asking for from Washington, D.C., and the type of leadership our state and nation need to continue growing jobs and the economy.”


“It is clear today that the message of fiscal discipline that Floridians have been sending to our leaders in Washington, D.C., may finally be sinking in.  In Florida, voters have demanded that we make the tough choices necessary to balance our budget, despite a record shortfall, without raising taxes or fees.  We did just that, and also passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would cap government spending, ensuring it never grows faster than a family’s ability to pay for it. 

“This is the type of reform that Washington needs to enact—and now.  I look forward to working with Governor Scott to make certain that Florida is the first state to set a date for ratification and continues to lead the nation in the type of reforms that will grow our economy for future generations.”


“Balancing a budget means making difficult decisions and prioritizing critical needs over important wants.  Families, businesses and the majority of states already make these hard choices every day, while the federal government seems content just kicking the can down the road.


“It is clear that America has a severe spending problem that our leaders in Washington haven't had the will to address. If given the opportunity, I am confident that the states will show restraint where the federal government has failed.


“I look forward to Florida leading the way towards ratification of a federal balanced budget amendment.”


Allen West: Why I voted for the Boehner plan

From a press release

Congressman Allen West (FL-22) wrote a letter to the American people today explaining his vote in favor of the Budget Control Act.

Excerpts from the letter:

"The Budget Control Act is far from perfect but the hard reality is that fiscal conservatives control only one-half of one-third of our government. This bill will make sure the President does not receive a blank check to continue his spending binge and the old ways of Washington, DC - blindly increasing the debt limit without spending cuts- are over. This vote is historic- it’s the first time we are raising the debt ceiling with cuts greater than the increase.

I learned when I was a solider at Fort Irwin National Training Center that when Officers waste too much time trying to come up with the perfect plan, they fall short because they are too inflexible or divided to see the path to victory. However, if you can come up with a 70-75 percent plan and execute it well, then you can win- and that’s what we have in the Budget Control Act.

The Budget Control Act is not perfect, but it is the 70 percent plan that my colleagues and I can execute to 100 percent.

It is now time for the focus to be on the United States Senate to produce a plan to take this country forward.

My fellow Americans, I ask you: If I had voted “No” on the Budget Control Act, who would I have been voting for?"

Full letter here: Download Westletter

Browning asks court to pull review of Florida's election law from Obama

In an end-run around the Obama administration's Department of Justice, Secretary of State Kurt Browning on Friday asked a federal district court in Washington, D.C. to approve portions of the

Browning, already under fire with a legal challenge to the law , asked the courts to step in where he had previously asked the Department of Justice to go. The law is awaiting federal approval under the 1965 Voting Rights Act but civil rights groups have been urging the justice department to invalidate the measure, arguing that it disenfranchises minority voters.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson held a series of rallies in Florida this week opposing the law and the American Civil Liberties Union has sued both Browning and the governor for implementing it. Jackson called Florida "ground zero for the voter suppression movement" and said that Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature wants to restrict minority voters to "dictate the outcome" of the 2012 elections.

 Browning said in a statement the reason he sought the three-judge panel's review "is to ensure that the changes to Florida’s election law are judged on their merits by eliminating the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence. Since the passage of HB 1355, we have seen misinformation surrounding the bill increase. By asking a court to rule on certain aspects of the bill, we are assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.”

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