Archive for July, 2012

Arguments, Votes and Victory Dances

Posted on July 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Caren Z. Turner

Happy Independence Day!   

What a week in Washington!   105 degrees and power outages were nothing compared to the heated arguments, votes, and victory dances.  Thursday, June 28th was historic. 

At precisely the moment Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi learned of the Supreme Court’s determination on Obamacare, we happened to be in her office.  As she strolled to the press conference she did a quick stop and chat and gave us the “thumbs up” re: the Supreme Court’s decision.  Shrieks of joy could be heard throughout her office as well as the Capitol Rotunda.  The full decision  was a shocker for most.  By most accounts, Chief Justice Roberts changed his vote to uphold the mandate on the basis of the US taxing authority.   Of course, the Democratic victory may be pyrrhic.   Next week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the mandate’s repeal.  It remains to be seen what the states will do.  Simultaneously, hundreds of Tea Party protesters objected to the court’s decision.   With signs and protest votes they argued that this was only the beginning of their fight to repeal the ObamaTax. 

At  2PM and at 4PM, the House agreed to vote on Darrell Issa’s measure to  find Attorney General, Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress.  The Democrats, lead by the Congressional Black Caucus walked out of the Congress altogether!  Well, at least it wasn’t gridlock!

 Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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Bipartisan Accord on Highways and College Loans Has Us Longing for More

Posted on July 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Turner GPA Staff

With its penchant for taking negotiations right down to the wire, Congress on Friday reached a compromise deal to reauthorize three federal programs—student loans, highways, and flood insurance.

As the Fourth of July recess neared, federal lawmakers, in an unusual display of cooperation for this Congress, were able to put aside their differences and approved legislation that avoided staggering loan increases for poor and middle-class college students, saved highway and transportation construction jobs and extended flood insurance protection to American homeowners and businesses. The Surface Transportation Act of 2012 now awaits the president’s signature.

Here are the bill’s key numbers:

  • 7.4 million college students were spared from having the interest rates on their federally subsidized Stafford loans double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent
  • 5.6 million households and businesses will remain covered by federal flood insurance programs
  • 1.8 million jobs, mostly highway and transit construction jobs, threatened by the cut-off of federal funding for transportation projects were saved
  • 1 million new jobs will be created by using federal loan guarantees to leverage private sector investment to build and repair roads, bridges, rail and other infrastructure projects

To reach an agreement both the Republicans and Democrats gave up on some of their demands, including the GOP’s push to tie passage of the bill to the approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Likewise, the Republican’s were able to wring environmental protection concessions from the Democrats, including the relaxing of rules pertaining to environmental impact studies required for federally financed highway projects.

The bill would spend more than $100 billion on highway, mass transit and other transportation projects over the next two years, but fails to grapple with the question of how to pay for transportation projects after that. The federal 18.4 cent-a-gallon gas tax and the 24.4 cent-a-gallon diesel tax has fallen woefully short for years in paying for highway and transit programs and have forced lawmakers to dip into the national treasury to the tune of $34.5 billion since 2008 to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. In failing to find a long-term solution to this serious funding issue – such as raising the gas and diesel tax, which haven’t been increased since 1993 – lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have simply pushed the problem down the road.

Likewise, Congress cobbled together short-term reprieves for student loans – a one-year deal – and for the federal flood insurance program, which took on massive debt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Both programs are in need of serious reforms that lawmakers simply didn’t address.

That didn’t stop a torrent of Internet boasting by members of Congress seeking to take a share of the credit, even if they failed to mention that little has been done over the last  two years to put Americans back to work.

Still, we take heart in the remarks of one senator made shortly after Congress approved the highway and college loan legislation: “We have a bill that is supported by conservatives and liberals, progressives and moderates. I think this is a great day.”

We can only hope that Congress will sometime in the not too distant future finally get around to giving us more of these “great days” that all Americans fully deserve and expect.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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Why so Secretive on Fast and Furious?

Posted on July 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

Ok, so the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding information regarding the flawed Southwest gun operation known as Fast and Furious.

And, the Justice Department responded by saying it will not prosecute, relying on a 1984 opinion by Reagan administration assistant attorney general Theodore Olson that says it doesn’t have to.

Holder, who last week became the first attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress, could still face civil litigation if the GOP-led House has the time and the stomach to pursue the issue in court.

But regardless of the outcome of the contempt vote, the question that’s on our mind is why has the Justice Department been so secretive about an affair they claim to have had no knowledge of?

Here’s what we know. Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives based in Phoenix devised the Fast and Furious plan in 2009 as means of investigating a gun-smuggling network linked to a Mexican drug cartel. The plan was to try and track straw purchases of guns in the hopes they would lead to higher-ups in the operation. It didn’t work and the straw purchasers got away with about 2,000 guns, two of which were found at the site of the shooting of Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.

Some Republicans believe the idea to let the guns walk was orchestrated in Washington by senior Obama administration officials. They must have authorized it, or at least known about it, these critics say.

As evidence, Republican investigators point to an application for a wiretap in the case to show that the gun walking operation proceeded with the Obama administration’s imprimatur.

Administration officials have denied this, insisting instead that while the operation may not have had its intended result, it was carried out locally without the sanction of the Justice Department leadership.

The documents that are being sought are from 2011, after Fast and Furious was concluded, which would suggest House investigators are checking to see if there was some kind of cover-up. That is certainly possible.

Holder continues to insist the department has nothing to hide: “There is nothing in those affidavits as I’ve reviewed them that indicates that gunwalking was allowed,” he said most recently.

So if there’s nothing there, if the administration has nothing to hide, why not just release the documents and get this thing over with? Just asking.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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On Health Care, the Ball is in Voters’ Court

Posted on July 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

Crowds outside the Supreme Court await the justices decision on the Affordable Care Act on Thursday in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court’s surprise decision upholding the healthcare overhaul known as Obamacare cemented its place as the pivotal issue in an increasingly hot presidential campaign.

For GOP challenger Mitt Romney, the issue has been a troubling one since he backed some of the law’s themes as governor of Massachusetts. Still, he was quick to signal that his opposition to the law would continue to be a keystone of his campaign.

Romney’s campaign launched a new theme after the decision: People v. Obamacare, which he is hoping will become synonymous with Romney v. Obama. “Obamacare is bad medicine, it is bad policy, and when Mitt Romney is president, the bad news of Obamacare will be over. This November it’s all on the line. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” the campaign said.

For his part, Obama signaled some willingness to tweak the law, though he said he remains committed to the law and its implementation.

“The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were,” Obama said

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll issued on Sunday, support for the healthcare law increased in the wake of the ruling, though most Americans continue to oppose it. Among all registered voters, support for the law rose to 48 percent, from 43 percent before the court decision.

The poll contained hollow succor for the President’s reelection campaign, especially considering that among the crucial independent voting block support for the law was only 38 percent, though that was up from 27 percent before the ruling.

These numbers pose more questions than they answer: Is opposition as deep and committed as it would seem from the super-heated reaction rhetoric? Is the American electorate ready to decide on its next leader based on this one issue alone? What about the economy, stupid?

The Republicans have scheduled a new vote on repealing the law for next week in the House. This is a political exercise that will accomplish nothing other than allowing GOP lawmakers to vent anew.

There are clearly some flaws in the law that could have longer term impacts on the economy and those need to be fixed. But reforming the reform is something that can happen no matter who wins the White House in the fall.

Healthcare reform is an important issue, don’t get us wrong. But the law is not the threat to the republic its opponents would suggest and, to be sure, there are other worthy issues that need to be factored into the electoral calculus.

We hope voters will be deaf to the shrill rhetoric from both sides and make their November decisions based on the totality of the issues, not the politically driven miasma of commentary arising from the court’s action.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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