Archive for January, 2013

Optimism for Congress?

Posted on January 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Caren Z. Turner

CZT Bio Photo medium resizeThe White House was swarming yesterday with teachers who met with the Administration to discuss firearms and gun issues. The stands for the inauguration are nearly completed. The fiscal cliff has been averted. Nominations for the Cabinet are being vetted.

Washington is again abuzz with activity. It’s difficult, but we are trying to remain optimistic that this year will bring renewed dedication to effective government action in Washington. Our signals that it will be a productive year? We were relieved to see a few Democrats vote against the fiscal cliff agreement. We are also relieved that some Republicans  voted against the Republican proposals. This is the only way legislation can pass. We need to celebrate those members of Congress who are courageous enough to vote in support of their beliefs!

There is (almost) nothing we like more than members of Congress who cross party lines…It doesn’t matter the issue or whether we agree with it or not!

Now we need more women appointed to the Cabinet!

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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New Congress, Same Dysfunction

Posted on January 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

113 congressCongress’ approval rating, how low can it go?

The 113th Congress was sworn in last week with 90 percent of the membership and 100 percent of the partisanship returning for another term. Don’t these folks realize that they are not sent to Washington to do politics? Don’t they know they are sent to govern?

Okay, so the 112th Congress adjourned to the history books with an 11th hour vote to avoid the fiscal cliff, the overused term for a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that would have sent the economy tumbling into free fall.

If they had actually solved that issue, you might have been able to say the last Congress accomplished something. But it didn’t, it simply kicked the can down the road, setting up another high stakes game of chicken in the coming weeks.

The Democrats made gains in both the House and the Senate in the November elections, but not enough to make any difference. In the Senate, Democrats now have 53 seats to 45 Republicans, and two Independents will caucus with the Democrats. Republicans retained control in the House, with 233 members to the Democrats’ 200.

There are record numbers of women in both houses, with 20 senators and 81 House members. Among the new Democrats in the Senate are Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly gay senator, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman.

These demographic strides aside, though, it’s pretty much; meet the new Congress, same as the old Congress.

On its way out the door on January 1, the old Congress dealt with the tax portion of the fiscal cliff problem, which will raise taxes on those earning more than $400,000 per year and keep everyone else’s taxes the same. But the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, were simply put off for two months.

So that’s on the 113th’s early agenda along with equally thorny debates on giving the government authority to borrow more money and the looming potential for a government shutdown on March 27.

Obama has said he won’t be drawn into bargaining sessions over borrowing authority. Republicans have said they want to see cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs or they won’t allow the debt ceiling to be raised.

Is it any surprise that this level of dysfunction has sent the Congress’ approval rating over a cliff of its own?  Fewer than 20 percent of Americans approved of the job the 112th Congress did last year and that was before the fiscal cliff debacle.

According to Gallup, the approval rating was somewhere around 18 percent in December. That actually seems kind of high, given the high level of partisanship and the low level of productivity on Capitol Hill.

Being on the front lines of congressional activity, as we have been for so long, does lead to a level of cynicism, for which we apologize. But while we certainly hope we are wrong, the 113th appears on course to be another epic failure.

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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Takeaways From the Fiscal Cliff

Posted on January 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

fiscal cliff deal Phew – that was way too close for comfort. But thanks to a nail-biter of a New Year’s deal, we barely averted a package of draconian automatic spending cuts and tax increases that no one wanted to endure.

However, to claim that we avoided going over the so-called “fiscal cliff” would be to overstate the outcome of the more than two months of rancorous partisan wrangling leading up to a last minute, down-to-the-wire agreement that did little to address our fiscal predicament. Instead of avoiding the fiscal cliff, we simply sidestepped and postponed the pending calamity.

So what did we learn from all this political sound and fury?

1. Vice President Joe Biden is good for more than a smile and a sound bite. Biden emerged as a key figure in hammering out a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that spared us the fiscal cliff. According to the Washington Post it was left up to Biden and McConnell, who had forged a strong, long-term relationship while they both served in the Senate, to save the day.  McConnell and Biden resolved the crisis through old-fashioned backroom bargaining…they pared away a little more of the grand ambitions each side had once held so dear, until all that was left was a modest measure that raised some new tax revenue and left most of the deficit problem intact, wrote the Washington Post. Left largely to the sidelines was almost everyone else in Washington.

2. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is very much on the sidelines, emerging as the Examiner.com noted – “looking weak and disorganized.” Ouch.  After failing to reach a fiscal cliff agreement with the White House, Boehner announced his own plan to solve the mess – Plan B – that would have extended the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes above $1 million, instead of the $250,000 income limit pushed by the President. But a funny thing happened along the way. Confronted with a revolt among his own GOP members, Boehner pulled his plan, saying: “The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass.”

And according to The Hill: Boehner’s botched “Plan B” vote and subsequent acceptance of a Senate deal that failed to garner majority support within the Republican Conference have left the Speaker vulnerable. Boehner narrowly held on to his gavel during a vote last week, with 10 Republicans defecting.

3. No one in Washington seems to be listening to the voters as they deman bipartisanship. Despite overwhelming public agreement that taxes should be increased on the wealthy to address the deficit, our elected officials seem oblivious. Perhaps that is one reason the public is “lukewarm” to the fiscal cliff deal and why an ABC/Washington Post poll indicates that “Strong” critics of the deal outnumber its strong proponents by 2-1.

4. Other important issues such as gun control, immigration, and foreign policy are on the political back burner
with budget issues remaining at the center of the congressional stage.

So ultimately, what have we learned from narrowly avoiding the fiscal cliff?

5. Clearly, the biggest take away from this ordeal is that apparently our elected officials in Congress and the White House haven’t learned a darn thing. Judging from the talk coming from the Hill and the White House, these folks are determined to take us all on this political rollercoaster again in just a few weeks. As NBC news recently noted – Next up: Congress will have to decide what to do about the “sequester” spending cuts which will come up again in February, as well as decide in March on whether to increase the federal borrowing limit.

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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Gun Fight on Capitol Hill

Posted on January 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr
guns

Last week, the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School returned to classes for the first time since that awful day in December when a gunman stormed their school and claimed 26 lives. On the same day, the 113th Congress was sworn in.

What happened in Newtown, Conn., is reverberating in Washington, giving new impetus to efforts to tighten federal gun laws. Hearings are on the way, but first up will be legislation to ban large ammunition feeders like the one used in the Connecticut massacre.

For his part, President Obama has vowed to make toughening federal gun laws a priority and he has asked Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force to seek ways to curb gun violence.

“The question is are we going to be able to have a national conversation and move something through Congress,” Obama said on NBC’s Meet The Press.

“I’d like to get it done in the first year. I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden’s task force is putting together as we speak. And so this is not something that I will be putting off,” he said.

Getting action, though, won’t be easy as the National Rifle Association and its many backers on the Hill have already signaled that they don’t see gun control as a solution to the mass slayings that have occurred with startling frequency in recent years.

It puts Republicans in a tough place. There’s no doubt that they share the national grief over what happened in Newtown, it’s just that they don’t see new gun laws as the solution. They note, correctly, that tighter federal gun laws would not have prevented the Newtown tragedy since the weapons used in the attack were legally purchased by the shooter’s mom.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees gun laws, told Roll Call that Congress will have a role in seeking ways to curb gun violence.

“We’re going to take a look at what happened there (in Newtown) and what can be done to help avoid it in the future,” he said, adding that “gun control is not going to be something that I would support.”

Still, Democrats, especially long time advocates of tougher gun control like Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), are hoping that the public anguish over this latest tragedy will be enough to prod Congress to action.

“The tragedy in Newtown may very well be the tipping point in America for addressing the scourge of gun violence. As more and more Americans step up to say that our gun laws are broken, President Obama is right that ‘words need to lead to action,’” Lautenberg said.

When the NRA says no federal law would have prevented what happened in Connecticut, we agree. At the same time, though, we believe some violent acts can be avoided through common sense gun control and we hope Congress will seek such solutions.

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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