Archive for March, 2013

Female Senators and a Point of Pride

Posted on March 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By Caren Z. Turner

CZT Bio Photo medium resizeIt’s a longstanding  point of pride between the female Senators of both parties that they believe they could create and pass a federal budget without a problem were it not for their feuding brethren. We’ve actually heard two female senators boast that they could get the budget written and passed in one week!

Well the women of the Senate may be given that opportunity. According to high-ranking Senate sources, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), newly minted Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is working closely with Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to get a Senate budget. If they accomplish this goal, it will be first Senate budget in over three years!

The new Senate budget package is rumored to be split 50-50 between spending cuts and new taxes. If Murray’s Committee adopts the proposal it could be voted upon as early as the week of March 18th. Squaring off with Paul Ryan and his budget will be a different story.

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Climate Change a Top Obama Administration Agenda Item

Posted on March 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to head up the EPA and Ernest J. Moniz to run the Department of Energy.

Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to head up the EPA and Ernest J. Moniz to run the Department of Energy.

Just like our nation’s summers are increasingly doing of late, the issue of climate change is heating up in Washington.

In his recent State of the Union address President Obama made it clear that tackling climate change is going to be a priority in his second term. But unlike the Administration’s other top agenda items — the budget, immigration, and gun control — climate change is the one area where the President can take direct action through the use of the powers of the executive branch. And the President made it clear during his SOTU address that is what he intends to do.

“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will…I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

On Monday (March 4) the President named two new Cabinet members who will be charged with carrying out his promise of direct action — Gina McCarthy, to head up the EPA and Ernest J. Moniz, to run the Department of Energy. According to the New York Times, “the appointments send an unmistakable signal that the President intends to mount a multifaceted campaign in his second term to take tackle climate change…”

Although Sens. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) and Bernie Saunders, (I-VT) have introduced a major climate-change bill, the measure has almost no chance of gaining congressional approval. But as the National Journal noted: “The failure of a high-profile bill would create the opportunity for the administration to roll out its new regulations.”

At the center of this regulatory action will be the EPA, which along with several other federal agencies will be empowered to devise measures under existing laws that achieve essential reductions in carbon pollution, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP).

“The EPA, for example, can establish a carbon-pollution standard for existing power plants under the Clean Air Act…In addition, federal agencies, led by FEMA can work together to assist communities with their efforts to become more resilient to climate-related extreme weather, noted CAP.”

The fact that agencies such as the EPA and others will be drafting regulations provides an excellent opportunity for those well-positioned, such as groups, businesses, individuals, municipalities represented by Turner GPA, to influence policy.  As the National Journal pointed out: “To help them [EPA] do it, they’re inviting in heads of the industries and businesses that will soon be forced to implement the rules. Business leaders, although they’re not happy about the coming regulations, are jumping on the opportunity to communicate their concerns and perhaps help shape the rules they’ll have to live by.”

While some members of Congress might be slow to grasp the urgency of addressing climate change, a majority of Americans of all political stripes understand that kicking this can down the road is no longer an option. In 2011 and 2012 there were 25 extreme weather events that caused at least $1 billion in damage each and took a total of 1,107 lives. That’s why a recent nationwide survey found widespread support for “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now,” including “62 percent of Independents and 38 percent of Republicans.”

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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For the Voting Rights Act, a Major Challenge

Posted on March 5, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the court needed to step in.

Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the court needed to step in.

When it was passed, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was hailed as the solution to state and local laws that denied blacks and other minorities access to their electoral franchise.

Now, 48 years later, some believe it has outlived its usefulness. And the Supreme Court is poised to decide if the federal government should retain a level of control over voting laws in states that historically discriminated.

On March 3, black leaders and others marked the anniversary of the Selma, Ala, freedom march that helped crystallize support for civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act.

“We saw in stark relief the rank hatred, discrimination and violence that still existed in large parts of the nation,” Vice President Joe Biden told those gathered in Selma. While most Americans agree the law made a difference, there is some doubt about its usefulness in the 21st Century.

Just four days earlier, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a challenge to the law brought by Shelby County, Ala. The case challenges the constitutionality of the law’s Section 5, which requires that certain states and other jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination get federal government approval before changing voting laws.

Opponents of the law argue that it has outlived its usefulness and that Section 5 unfairly continues to punish southern states and jurisdictions, even though they are no longer overtly practicing racism at polling station.

Washington Post columnist George Will pointed out in his column that in 2008 Barack Obama won a higher percentage of the white vote than did Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004. Mississippi, which was once one of the most notorious states when it came to voter discrimination, has more black elected officials than any other state, he added.

“Yet defenders of the continuing necessity of Section 5 merely shrug about the fact that race is no longer a barrier to either the nation’s highest office or to state and local offices in what once was the state most emblematic of resistance to racial equality,” he wrote.

But others are not so sure polling places are free of racism. They point to allegations that in 2012 Republicans in some jurisdictions sought to suppress voter turnout among African-Americans, who greatly favored President Obama.

In that race, Obama’s Democratic backers relied on the Voting Rights Act when they went to court to successfully challenge voting law changes, including state voter-ID laws, that may have been aimed at inhibiting minority participation.

There were plenty of indications during oral argument that the high court may very well side with Shelby County. Chief Justice John Roberts was particularly strong in questioning the continued utility of Section 5. The other conservatives on the court are thought to be similarly inclined.

If the law has prevented even a single act of voter suppression, it should be allowed to stand. The argument that states deserve to be liberated from federal oversight just doesn’t stand up when weighed against one of America’s most cherished freedoms.

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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Sequester is Here, Where’s the Doom

Posted on March 5, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 4.

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 4.

What if sequestration took place and nobody noticed?

That’s what it looked like over the weekend as $85 billion in automatic federal budget reductions went into effect. Nothing much happened, but that’s not because the forced federal spending cuts are harmless, it’s because it’s going to take a while for them to sink in and begin hurting the economy and costing jobs.

When that happens, there is little doubt that the Congress and the administration will get down to business and reach an agreement, probably a short-term one that will set up yet another doomsday date in the not too distant future. This is called kicking the can down the road.

President Obama knows it will take some time for pain to set in and that’s why he is taking a step back from the doom and gloom rhetoric, at least for now. At a cabinet meeting the other day, the president said the sequester is a major concern, but that his administration would deal with it.

He pointedly noted that the budget mess was not the only thing on the cabinet meeting’s agenda.

“One of the things that I’ve instructed not just my White House but every agency is to make sure that, regardless of some of the challenges that they may face because of sequestration, we’re not going to stop working on behalf of the American people to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to grow this economy and improve people’s prospects,” Obama said.

Obama also promised to engage with Republicans in pursuit of a compromise solution.

“And so I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things,” he said.

These cuts were designed to be so politically distasteful, that Congress would be forced to act, or face the wrath of voters whose roads are crumbling, planes are delayed and jobs are eliminated. But Congress still couldn’t bring itself to act.

What is needed is not this kind of across the board slashing at discretionary funds, but a thoughtful long-term budget tightening that looks at discretionary, but also entitlement, spending.

Last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said just that.

“The Congress and the Administration should consider replacing the sharp, front loaded spending cuts required by the sequestration with policies that reduce the federal deficit more gradually in the near term but more substantially in the longer run,” Bernanke said in testimony before a Senate Committee.

“Such an approach could lessen the near-term fiscal headwinds facing the recovery while more effectively addressing the longer-term imbalances in the federal budget,” he said.

But don’t expect Congress to do anything right away, though they may have to reckon with fall-out from the sequester sooner than they think.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International and O’Hare International in Chicago, are already experiencing delays in customs lines because of the elimination of overtime. Once furloughs are put in place, those problems will get worse.

Expect the chorus of outrage to start in the state capitals, where federal aid for education, infrastructure and other programs will form an early pressure point.

Everyone supports cutting federal spending, but this is not the way to do it.

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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