It's been a lousy week for Alabamians interested in the state's image & overall intelligence level of the people elected to govern us. Marriage equality has brought out the worst in many, but it's not limited to that. Deer season is nearly over, but a bunch of Alabama Republicans have a new quarry: those dastardly unicorns.
Secretary of State John Merrill may or may not be involved in a sex scandal - although his real crime was sponsoring a "personhood bill" while serving in the Legislature. That's right, campers: a guy who can't tell a fertilized egg from an 18-yr-old is about to run our 2016 election.
Oh lord save Tennessee for Jesus sake, and I pray that your will would be done that you would be our coverage, that we would not be forced into these edicts from Washington DC or any other quarter, but let the people know that our coverage is the same as with Moses and the children of Israel when they went through the wilderness with only the divine providence of almighty God.
So I'm confused.... in the wilderness, "Moses and the children of Israel" got free food that dropped out of the sky overnight, free water delivered from the nearest rock, all the quail they could eat (for free), and they got to cross an entire body of water without paying for a boat ride. They sound like a bunch that's pretty dependent on a "higher authority." Is this Tennessee minister suggesting that food banks, food stamps, municipal water systems, etc. also violate God's will?
Be afraid... very afraid..... this if Alabama legislators get wind of this, they could well see it as a solution to the state's budget problems.
(Promoted to remind everyone that the debate airs TONIGHT! - promoted by countrycat)
Well, here's one way that Rep. Mo Brooks is a better candidate than Governor Robert Bentley: he's not afraid to debate his opponent. WAAY-TV in Huntsville announced that it will be sponsoring "an exclusive, televised debate" between Congressman Brooks & challenger Mark Bray on Thursday, October 30 from 6-7pm.
It gets better, campers!
The live debate will follow a "Lincoln-Douglas" format, allowing both candidates to interact directly with each other and discuss the issues they believe are most important in Alabama's Fifth Congressional District. Rep. Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Bray (I-Huntsville) are both guaranteed equal speaking time per the rules agreed upon by both campaigns. The debate will take place in the WAAY 31 studios, and will be moderated by longtime station anchor Erin Dacy. The event will be the only televised debate in this year's congressional cycle.
I did debate in high school & college and NOTHING keeps you on your toes more than what we called "LD Cross-ex."
That's a real debate where the participants ask each other questions and respond. No canned speeches allowed. Will the participants follow the rules? Let's hope so. This should be one of the best hours of the fall campaign.
AL-05 Independent candidate Mark Bray stressed his "true" independence last week while speaking to a heavily Democratic crowd in Madison. "I'm not a Republican," he told the crowd. "In fact, some in the Republican party have been trying to label me a Democrat. But I'm neither. I chose Independent because that's exactly who I am."
Bray urged the crowd to move beyond partisan labels, stressing that no matter what our party, religion, background, etc. that we're all pretty much the same underneath:
"I've visited police officers, firefighters, first responders, doctors, nurses.... and you know what we all are? Problem solvers! That's what we all are: we get up every day and we do our jobs & we solve the problems that are in front of us.
But Washington is unable to do what we do every day."
Bray said that he has seen a hunger for new faces & new solutions. People are tired of the rhetoric and the gridlock - particularly young people.
"Something is happening in this country. I'm not the only Independent out there. There are 92 Independents for Congress (House & Senate) this year.
This is a movement. People are tired - I'm tired - of partisan politics. I'm tried of good bills & good solutions to the problems we all know we face sitting in committee because both parties at the national level want to use it to pound the other one in the next election.
If they continue, and we don't send someone up there who can lead and put solutions on the table, you will continue to see voter apathy.
You'll see a generation aged 40 & under - they believe we've lost already. They don't think this country can be saved. I wouldn't be running if I believed that."
With no Democrat in the race, Bray is the district's only hope to get "foot-in-mouth Mo" out of Congress. This district is incredibly dependent on Federal spending, from the defense installations in Huntsville to NASA to TVA to disaster aid after tornadoes & floods. And yet we have a Congressman who goes out of his way to insult the administration, his colleagues, and turns his back on his fellow Americans who have also suffered national disasters - even as he represents the most tornado-prone area in the country.
Mark Bray, the independent candidate running for Congress in the 5th district of North Alabama, stands with his fellow citizens who are dismayed by the recent unproductive remarks of Congressman Brooks.
Most citizens in the 5th district of Alabama understand the severity of the crisis at our border. They also understand the children are not to blame for their circumstances. The border crisis is complex and requires some flexibility and compassion to do what it is in our nation's interest while upholding our values to help our fellow man.
It is imperative that our leaders be able to express their concerns and solutions to problems such as the border crisis without resorting to making presumptions of motives. As citizens, we have an expectation that our congressman behave and speak in ways that honor all the people the district so that we may trust he can be productive on our behalf. The comments made today have not enabled the political discourse to move forward and have only served to divide and increase the temperature of the rhetoric.
It is my prayer we can move away from this rhetoric and speak to the facts and solutions rather than presumptive statements of motives.
Meanwhile, Congressman Brooks took to local radio to double down on his race war statement:
"What I'm saying is the Democrats have a political strategy where they try to appeal to the public based on skin color and they are trying to demonize whites in order to get Hispanics to vote Democrat and blacks to vote Democrat and to get Asian-Americans to vote Democrat," Brooks said.
Ummm... Democrats don't have to "try" to do anything. It's simply enough to use direct quotes from actual Republicans. Once they read bizarre stuff like this, voters are smart enough to figure out which political party is on their side:
GOP Representative Steve King of Iowa: “We could also electrify this wire (on the border) with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”
More Steve King: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
GA Rep. Lynn Westmoreland referred to the Obama family as "uppity." "Honestly, I've never paid that much attention to Michelle Obama. Just what little I've seen of her and Sen. [Barack] Obama, is that they're a member of an elitist class ... that thinks that they're uppity."
Then he denied that it "meant anything." Hello... the man is from GEORGIA & Southerners know what you mean when you call a Black man "uppity."
The TEA Party & GOP's brief flirtation & hero worship of deadbeat racist Cliven Bundy, who openly mused that blacks "might be better off as slaves."
Judging from the public statements he's made while in office, AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks is hoping to be named the "least effective Congressman in America." Of course though, that would surprise none of those who live in his district.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) doesn't think that the hardline stance Republicans have taken on immigration could hurt the party’s standing with Hispanic voters. Instead, he thinks Democrats are hurting their prospects with white voters.
“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else,” he said during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. "It's part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.” [...] Ingraham didn't seem to be on board with Brooks' "war on whites" remark, telling him it was "a little out there."
President Obama is a danger to "whites?" Not as big of a danger as Mo Brooks is to the Fifth Congressional District. This is a district supremely dependent on largess from the federal government - from cheap power rates via TVA to government contracts & salaries that rain green across the Tennessee Valley. Yet, almost from the day he took office, Brooks has gone out of his way to snub the administration and insult his Congressional colleagues.
Now, let's review Brooks' career in Congress since he took office:
During the 2010 midterms, Brooks scoffed at his opponent's focus on jobs for AL-05, instead telling voters that the main issue was "voting against Nancy Pelosi."
Mo Brooks said the US economy would be better off if it were "more like China." In answer to a question on business taxes, he argued that businesses in China have an advantage because of fewer regulations on air pollution, water pollution and waste disposal. "We need to level the playing field," he said.
During the final week of the 2010 campaign, Brooks was still insisting that the main issue was "Nancy Pelosi's job," not jobs for people in AL-05. "All of this is a diversionary tactic to encourage voters to not focus on issues of national importance," said Brooks, "to not focus on whether we want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to win this congressional seat."
Having run against a mythical "government takeover" of health care, Brooks eagerly signed on for more of his "government run" health care after re-election, then voted against a resolution that would have required representatives to publicly disclose whether or not they accepted the federal plan.
In Mo's World, he explained to the Huntsville Times, Congress should cut federal spending - except NASA, defense, and anything that affects his district.
As part of his Congressional "charm offensive" (where he's not very charming, but really, really offensive), Brooks had to remove some of his comments from the Congressional Record after calling members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus "socialists."
Brooks refused to denounce the GOP presidential hopefuls who unanimously refused to support NASA during a debate.
Brooks said any of the Republican candidates so far seeking the White House would be better for NASA than President Obama. He challenged reports in The Times and elsewhere that Republican candidates are unwilling to support federal funding for NASA, based on their debate this month. "It was not a good forum to determine their actual position on NASA," Brooks said of the debate. Based on positions taken elsewhere, Brooks said so far, "you've got Mitt Romney and you've got Pawlenty" as likely NASA supporters. Note that both Romney & Pawlenty were gripping their podiums for dear life instead of enthusiastically waving their hands in response to this question: "Will any candidate raise their hands to support continued federal funding for NASA?"
Mo Brooks said we should do "anything short of shooting them" to "get rid" of "illegals." Don't agree? Brooks was ok with you being wrong: "Sorry you feel that way. You are in error," said Brooks."
We've gotten used to Alabama's GOP Congresscritters humilating the state every time they speak in public (I'm looking at YOU, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III), but this interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes hit a new low.
It turns out, Brooks isn't just gunning (or doing anything short of shooting) for the refugee children. He wants to take out the DREAMERs as well - children brought to this country by their parents who have grown up in the country and who know no other home.
Chris Hayes: "You want to see those 500,000 children deported?"
Brooks: "The issue is, who do you focus on? I focus on American families. I focus on American families who have lost their jobs and had their incomes suppressed.
Time to buy Brooks some glasses. But, if he thinks the causes he's pushing in Congress help anybody but wealthy contributors and deep-pocketed corporations, then a simple pair of bifocals won't cut it. The man needs some sort of eye transplant not to mention an emergency infusion of compassion and basic human decency.
If Brooks is seriously interested in helping American workers, he needs to quit begrudging refugee children food & shelter and do the work we're actually paying him for. Here's where he can start:
Raise the minimum wage. The average age of a minimum wage worker is 35, 55% work full time, and 28% support children.
Cosponsor HR-4679, (Stop Corporate Inversion Act of 2014) and stop American corporations like Walgreens from using a tax dodge to avoid all US income taxes at the same time their American stores rake in profits from American consumers. Alternatively, he can co-sponsor HR-4985, which does much the same thing.
Cosponsor HR-851 (Bring Jobs Home Act), which gives a tax credit to corporations that brings jobs back home to America and eliminates the tax deduction they get when they outsource jobs overseas.
But we know he won't. For so many in the GOP, there's a "glass floor" on their "concern" for American workers. Their interest starts - and stops - in the corporate boardroom.
I can't embed the video of Brook's interview here on the blog, but you can watch it here. And then weep for a country whose leaders think we're too poor and/or too mean to take care of desperate refugee children who have arrived on foot at our border. To be fair, these children are being treated better than many WWII refuges who came by boat. Maybe we've learned something about caring since then.
Sheesh... you'd think we have big signs up or some statue or something that invites "huddled masses" to come here and "breathe free" or something, wouldn't you?
No Democrat in the 5th district stepped up to challenge incumbent Congressman Mo Brooks this year, but local aerospace engineer Mark Bray is mounting a run as an independent. It's a long-shot candidacy, because Alabama ballot access rules aren't friendly to independents. However, it is possible to run and win - just ask State Senator Harri Anne Smith.
The first hurdle is getting on the ballot at all. Mark Bray needs to collect signatures from 3% of of the 5th district's total vote cast for governor in the last election. In 2010, 108,376 Madison County voters cast ballots: 3% of that total is 3,251. The 5th district also covers Limestone, Jackson, , Lauderdale, & Morgan Counties.
If you'd like to sign the petition (and live in the 5th district!), download it here.
Bray spoke at the recent Women's Rights Rally in Huntsville, introduced himself, and discussed why he thinks the incumbent is bad for the 5th district and for Alabama.
Over the last few weeks, Congressman Mo Brooks has been in the news...and it hasn't been pretty.
He has made public statements that are irrational, illogical and false. He has shown a lack of command of the facts and a lack of discipline for leadership. This should be disturbing for the voters in this district. His deficiencies have, and continue to, hurt the citizens of North Alabama during his time in office. [...] We could possibly forgive this one misstep. Maybe. But, he continued last week by incorrectly blaming the Obama Administration for ending the Shuttle Program and canceling the Constellation Program. Did he forget the facts? Or did he not know them? Some of us lived both of those events and know very well that it was President Bush who ended the Shuttle Program. It was Congress who underfunded the Constellation Program (the second moon program) for so many years that it forced its cancellation. It was Congress which failed to pass a budget for more than seven years. If it were up to our Congressman, we would still not have a budget.
Taking marching orders from the latest GOP "anti-Obamacare scare manual," AL-05's Mo Brooks was on the floor of the House railing about "security problems" with healthcare.gov and advising constituents to avoid it. Senator Richard Shelby is at work publicizing his constituents' paranoia.
The irony? Both men took to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, & other social media outlets to warn constituents about "privacy threats." Yep. Did you read it using your smartphone? Share it on your FB page & suddenly start receiving health insurance-related ads via Google ads? Ignore the warning message that it's time to update your anti-virus software or operating system because "I want to read this security article instead?"
Then suck it up, campers, because Big Data already has the goods on you - and so do hackers, the NSA, & even the CIA. You see, records about your private phone calls, emails, & Web surfing habits are actually profit centers for Google, Facebook, Verizon, and especially AT&T!
Understandably, AT&T customers & shareholders would like to know more about this practice, which AT&T terms "normal business operations."
In November, shareholders of AT&T and Verizon Communications sent resolutions to the two companies demanding that they publish regular reports on how they share customer information with the government for surveillance efforts.
Now AT&T has issued a response: It’s none of your business.
Yep. If they aren't selling your data to advertisers, they're selling it to government agencies. Which, if you think about it, the latter practice really sucks: you're indirectly paying the bills when a private company pads its profits by charging your own government for the privilege of spying on you.
Where exactly was the GOP outrage when these events happened?
Data broker giants hacked by ID theft service: "An identity theft service that sells Social Security numbers, birth records, credit and background reports on millions of Americans has infiltrated computers at some of America’s largest consumer and business data aggregators, according to a seven-month investigation by KrebsOnSecurity."
Because anybody who pays a credit card online, applies for credit online, uses online banking, or completes any financial transaction online is at risk. That's true whether we're dealing with private companies or governmental agencies.
While there's never a guarantee of absolute 100% security and privacy, we do have a reasonable expectation that measures will be taken to secure personal data - measures that, IMO, don't include selling it anyone with a checkbook, AT&T.
So the issue that Brooks, Shelby, & company should be pushing is data security overall. But that's not nearly as much fun as harping on the discredited meme that "your identity is at risk on healthcare.gov so stay away..." Shamelessly, the GOP lied that the well-respected Consumer Reports warned people away from the site:
In fact, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, issued a press release announcing the White House’s “interagency initiative to protect consumers from being victims of fraud while using the upcoming Health Insurance Marketplaces, including a way for consumers to report fraud through the Marketplace call centers.” In that release, the Consumer Union’s director of health reform, DeAnn Friedholm, “praised the commitment to preventing fraud and taking action against those connected with scams, while reinforcing the need for education to help consumers avoid these pitfalls.”
Other than some temporary political gain & exposure from the DC chattering class, what can the GOP possibly hope to gain by continuing their lies on this issue?
Keep in mind that those "young invincibles" so coveted by the health insurance marketplace live most of their lives online. Buying online health insurance is just as natural as, say, posting drunken photos of your pre-wedding party on Tumblr or uploading your resume to job sites. The scare mongering won't work with these folks.
But where it will have an impact is with older consumers who aren't as comfortable in the cyber-world and already view it with suspicion. They're the folks who, collectively, will use more health care dollars than younger consumers. It could increase costs if more of them sign up, while the younger folks stay away.
It's actually kind of funny..... without even realizing it, Brooks, Shelby, Cantor, and all the other scaremongers are working to help the marketplace look even more successful! They're driving away older, sicker people who might believe their lies making the markeplace demographic skew younger and healthier.. And in doing so, they hurt a demographic they increasingly depend on for votes at the same time
Nice work, guys.... What will you do for your next trick?
Remember AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks' famous statement that he would do "anything short of shooting" illegal immigrants? The AFL-CIO does - and so will those who watch Spanish language TV, where the nation's largest organized labor group is reminding Hispanic and Latino voters who their political friends are... NOT.
Iowa Rep. Steve King makes an appearance in one clip, referring to illegal immigrants “hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
And in multiple commercials, the AFL-CIO highlights Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’s statement that he would do “anything short of shooting” undocumented workers in order to crack down in illegal immigration.
Tom Snyder, the AFL-CIO strategist who's leading the immigration reform campaign has this grim reminder for the party that lost the Hispanic/Latino vote by a huge margin in 2012:
“This is just a beginning. This is a down payment,” Snyder said, adding: “The Republican Party may control the immediate fate of immigration reform, but Latinos and other immigrants control the long-term fate of the Republican Party.”
The TEA party extremists, feeling secure in their gerrymandered districts, show in so many ways that they don't care about the future of the party as a whole.
House Democrats today announced a plan to bring a "discharge petition" to the floor to force the Speaker Boehner to bring the Senate version of the continuing resolution to a vote. If it's successful, it means that a bill that has the support of a majority of the House will actually get to vote to restart the federal government.
A discharge petition in the House is a long shot, but not outside the realm of possibility. Over 20 House Republicans have said they'd support a "clean" CR that matches the Senate bill. There are 200 Democrats to sign the petition & if the Republicans who have already announced their support sign on, we hit the magic number - 218. Basically, a discharge petition forces the Speaker to bring a bill to the floor. The way the rules in the House work, the Speaker has almost unlimited power over what comes to a vote - and what does not.
This gives lie to the "false equivalence" argument that it's the fault of both parties because there has always been a majority in the House who would have voted in favor of the Senate bill - and thereby kept the government running.
But Speaker Boehner is operating under the unwritten "Hastert Rule" that says the Speaker should only bring a bill to the floor if a "majority of the majority" party supports the bill. We're now living in bizarro world where an absolute majority of House members would vote fora bill that matches the Senate bill and reopen the federal government, but the Speaker won't allow a vote on the bill. And blames Democrats for his inaction.
This situation didn't happen by accident. It's been the plan all along. ABC News did an excellent timeline of the shutdown, but made a mistake: they started it in September. When, in fact, this has been in the works since the summer:
August 7: The Boston Globe reported that TEA Party activists were pushing a "shut it down" strategy for the budget & Obamacare: "Despite warnings from GOP leaders that the strategy is political folly, Tea Party activists are demanding that Republican lawmakers threaten to shut down the government as a dramatic way to stop funding for the plan."
August 14: The conservative group FreedomWorks was urging visitors to harrangue their representatives to sign its "shut it down" letter. Eighty did, including Senators Shelby & Sessions and AL-05 Rep. Mo Brooks.
Now, that Mo Brooks was willing to sign on to this is pretty amazing considering how dependent his district is on federal largesse. And he's feeling the heat, trying to have it both ways by protesting that he "didn't want a shutdown" but at the same time voting for one.
Quit playing the blame game and just pass a CR without strings attached, then you can work out you 1% differences while we all go back to work.'
Surrender Congressman Mo Brooks. You can simply end this government shutdown by voting for a continuing resolution (CR) with no riders, basically a clean bill. I prefer the ACA to go unchallenged as it passed Congress and the President years ago and it's been judged constitutional by the SCOTUS. Holding the federal budget hostage, demanding President Obama and the Democrats negotiate with you over the ACA makes as much sense as a crazed stalker holding a gun to his ex-girlfriend's head, demanding she talk to him about getting back together. You and your peers were wrong to have started this, you are hurting individual Americans with furloughs and denied services, you are negatively impacting our national defense according to our intelligence and military leaders and you are threatening our national economy. Stop acting recklessly, represent all your constiuates and vote to pass a clean CR now. MICHAEL L. MARTIN, MSgt, USAF (Ret.)
You should have thought about the devastation this would cause the 5th Congressional District before you started drinking the tea!!!!
Whether you agree with the ACA is a non-issue. The point of a budget isn't to fund or defund things you do or don't agree with. The ACA is a law. How would you feel if the democrats refused to pass the budget until guns were illegal? Do what you are paid to do, so people can get back to work!
I don't care what you are or aren't fighting for. I just want to go back to work and get paid for the work that I do. How are your constituents (that are federal employees) in the TN Valley going to pay their bills? The ACA and 90% of the other legislation that has been passed in the last decade was pork, useless, or pay raises for Congress. We have not had a cost of living increase in years, yet every single one of our benefits costs have increased (health/dental insurance, taxes, ss taxes). You already have us over a barrel. Quit adding insult to injury! We JUST had to deal with a 20%+ pay cut for 6 weeks, now we get NO pay? We can't resign our jobs, no one is there to process the paperwork, yet we can't legally get new/second jobs as we have to have 'approval' from upper management before we can accept them.
And then there are the supporters......
Yes continue. We don't need Obama Muslim Care.Try to save usfrom a tyrant.
The Obamacare hotline is 1-800-F**KYOU 1-800-3(F) 8(U) 2(C) 5(K) 9(Y) 6(O) . Use this Obama slap in the face to the American people to not only stop Obamacare but to Impeach Obama and save this nation!
The discharge petition may be our only hope. Will the "moderate" Republicans in the House, 20 of whom have said they'll support a clean bill step up? Or are they more worried about the TEA Party mobs than the fate of the country?
The shutdown isn't a "bug" in the TEA Party program for the country; it's a feature.
What would it take to resume federal government operations? Nobody really knows, since the House GOP keeps changing their demands. Initially, it was to "defund Obamacare" even though, as head Obamacare-killer Senator Ted Cruz admitted to Senate colleagues, there was no plan on actually how to defund the law. Over the weekend, the House cobbled together a ransom notewish list that included almost the entire GOP platform from 2012.
And some Representatives even wanted to throw in more restrictions on birth control - because they just can't keep their hands out of women's... well, you know.
Most Alabama Representatives have reacted in a sadly predictable manner - blaming Senate Democrats & President Obama for failure to accept whatever crap legislation Boehner the TEA Party can push through the House.
And, although she opposes the new Affordable Care Act developed by the Obama administration, Roby says she has always opposed a shutdown because she has learned most taxpayers in the greater River Region area do not support it.
“I’ve never been for a government shutdown,” Roby said.
Rep. Mo Brooks said that he didn't want a government shutdown - even though he also voted for Boehner's CR and has yet to sign up with King's group of folks searching for compromise.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Brooks said disagreements over President Obama's healthcare program should not lead to a government shutdown - which went into effect Tuesday with the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year.
“The House passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government funded and to stop the train wreck that is the President’s unpopular health care law, not once, not twice, but three times and did so with bipartisan support,” said Aderholt. “Unfortunately, the Senate rejected our offers and refused to come to the table to find a solution.”
Spencer Bachus warned that the shutdown would have "severe negative consequences" (even though he too voted with the majority to force a shutdown) and was shocked, shocked that the shutdown forced the closure of national parks & monuments. That in itself is pretty surprising, since Bachus is an alumnus of the GOP shutdown wars of the 1990's. Battles that led to historic mid-term losses for the GOP in 1998.
But maybe he does remember: Rep. Bachus announced that he's jumping off the clown car in 2014. Unlike <a hre="http://www.leftinalabama.com/diary/10640/hd104-jim-barton-another-elected-rat-jumps-off-the-gop-ship">many Alabama Republicans</a> though, he will finish out his term.
Mike Rogers hasn't said much, except that he won't collect a paycheck during the shutdown. It's not like he does a lot to earn it when the government's operating either.
Every Alabama voter should remind these people of this simple concept: compromise begins in YOUR house, not the Senate. If your unwilling to work with the the Democrats who serve with you in the House, how on Earth do you propose to work with the Senate?
This is copied directly from an e-mail from dear Mr Mo.
" Dear Mr. *****:
Thank you for contacting me to share your views regarding H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, also known as the Farm Bill, but which should be known as the Food Stamp Bill, since roughly 75% of the bill’s cost is giving away free food stamps.
Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma introduced H.R. 1947 on May 13, 2013. This legislation seeks to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018.
H.R. 1947 was referred to the House Agriculture Committee on May 29. On June 20, I voted for this legislation and it failed on a 234-195 vote.
If you don’t mind, please let me share with you some thoughts about the Food Stamp/Farm Bill.
First, and foremost, this was a very difficult decision and vote for me. At varying times during the debate, I was on different sides of the “Yes” or “No” coin. As a general rule, I do not like the food stamp program, believe it is full of fraud and waste, believe it encourages idleness rather than the work ethic, and costs more money than American taxpayers can afford. Similarly, I much prefer the agriculture industry make do without so many costly subsidies and safety nets and operate as everyone is supposed to operate in a free enterprise economy.
Most voters seem to believe that, if Congress does not pass a bill on farm and food stamp programs, then both programs die. That is not the case. The “fall back” position on farming issues is legislation passed in the 1940s. If no Farm Bill passes, then the 1940s legislation governs farming issues. Unfortunately, the 1940s legislation is antiquated, does not work, would drive up farm subsidies, and would dramatically drive up farm product prices for certain farm products (like milk and cheese, for example).
Similarly, if no Food Stamp Bill passes, then old legislation becomes the default law that governs food stamp issues. These old laws are also worse than what the current Food Stamp/Farm Bill offered. Taxpayer costs would once again escalate.
A few of the positive highlights about this particular Food Stamp/Farm Bill are worth noting. The failed legislation:
1. Cut two million people off food stamps, thereby saving taxpayers a bundle over the default law.
2. Imposed a work requirement on food stamp recipients, thereby reinforcing the work ethic.
3. Eliminated direct payments to farmers, thereby saving taxpayer money.
4. Cut overall spending on food stamps and farm subsidies by roughly $4 billion per year.
Despite my reservations about the food stamp costs and farm subsidies, I concluded that the choice was between this legislation and the default laws that govern should this legislation fail. Given that choice, and while we were not being as financially responsible as I would like, the legislation saved taxpayers more money than existing law and, hence, it was best to support it with my vote. So I did.
As noted above, the Food Stamp/Farm Bill failed to pass the House because 90%+ of Democrats voted against the Bill, enough to overcome the 70%+ Republican vote in favor of the Bill. The Bill would have passed had House Democrats delivered the promised 40 votes in support of the bill. They did not deliver the promised votes.
Quite frankly, I do not know what the House Leadership will do next. I, and others, have let House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor know that we should break the Bill into two bills (one bill agriculture, one bill food stamps). Personally, I believe the House can pass a more financially responsible Farm Bill with only Republican votes and we can also pass a much more financially responsible Food Stamp Bill with only Republican votes. Time will tell whether the House Leadership will heed our advice.
Although I voted for the Food Stamp/Farm Bill this time, I am unsure how I will vote next time. If the bill is the same, I will vote the same. On the other hand, if the bill is different, I will have to consider those differences and make a decision.
Please feel free to contact me again in the future. You may wish to visit my website at http://brooks.house.gov/ for additional information about issues and legislation before Congress.
AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks held a "tele-townhall" meeting last night, & it was remarkable in that the questions were far more disturbing (for the most part) than Rep. Brooks' answers. Either these people really represent the GOP core constituency in this district or Brooks' call screener decided to liven things up a bit.
The first caller was pretty garden-variety. He wanted to know when the country is going to abolish the IRS & replace it with a flat tax.
But the second question from a woman in Decatur really kicked off the crazy. This is an exact quote:
"I'm going to only say the things you really don't want to hear and I'm going to apologize for that, sir. I'm very concerned: I'm the mother of two children and I don't like the way our country's going at all. This is the more corrupt government we've had, and I've been around even in the Nixon years - I'm pretty old. And this is a corrupt government; it's corrupt through and through, and I'd like to know why we are not impeaching the President and why we haven't fired people. If this kind of thing happened in corporate America, none of us would have our jobs. And I think the lies we're getting coming out of Washington DC are despicable. And I'm really concerned with how corrupt IRS is and that they're going to have access to more information with regards to our medical. I don't see that as ever a viable solution to providing medical coverage to the people in the United States - the people who actually need it. And I think it should be repealed immediately and I don't understand for the life of me why people are not getting behind it and why their voices are not being heard. And also, by the way, I'm being "sequestrated" (sic) like everyone else, so I've lost a bunch of money in my paycheck and I'm pretty unhappy."
Brooks noted that she had a lot of issues and asked which he should address first.
"The corruption. Why are we not impeaching this President?"
Rep. Brooks actually did well with that, noting the Constitution's "high bar" for impeachment.
"While certainly, there are people who appear to have committed crimes in the various things we've talked about, there is insufficient evidence - perhaps no evidence - that Barack Obama has committed a high crime or misdemeanor, and until there is evidence, there is no legal basis for his impeachment. We cannot remove him from office just because we disagree with his politics or because we think that he's not competent in performing his duties. Those are not grounds. It has to be "high crime or misdemeanor" and that is the only ground for impeachment. For example, with Richard Nixon, he was guilty of obstruction of justice - which was a felony. With Bill Clinton, he was guilty of perjury - which was a felony, but even then, the Senate would not convict.
In this instance, if someone has admissible evidence that the President has committed a high crime or misdemeanor, I encourage them to come forward, but until then.... Now, while he's not doing what I wish he'd do, I don't know of any evidence that supports impeachment. At least not now. I share your frustration, but it's what the American people elected."
But don't get too warm & fuzzy with Rep. Brooks yet. Later in the question, he offered this tidbit:
"The defense civilian employees have been targeted for political reasons - not for policy reasons. There is nothing in the Budget Control Act or the sequestration law that requires the President of the United States to furlough national defense employees. There are a lot of employees in a lot of federal departments that are suffering no furloughs. Not at NASA and not at the new "Obamacare bureaucracy." National defense was targeted for a variety of reasons, in my judgment."
um.... the purpose of sequestration was to take flexibility OUT of the hands of the various government departments and mandate across-the-board cuts. Surprise, but salaries are a big expense.
Later, during a conversation about immigration, Rep. Brooks noted his preference for "people who can bring wealth with them." Ok then... so rich foreigners are fine, but not those pesky "huddled masses." Later, Brooks was silent as a caller railed about illegal immigrants getting "welfare, social security, and government benefits" - none of which is actually happening.
Somebody needs to educate AL Rep. Mike Rogers on the law of cause and effect as it applies to the federal budget. When you recklessly vote for a stupid bill that requires across-the-board budget cuts with little or no flexibility, don't be surprised when those cuts hurt your district.
“I am convinced this is political … I am convince it is solely because the administration wants as many people as possible to feel the pain, so he can say ‘this is what happens when the mean Republicans cut spending, now give me more taxes,’” Rogers said at the event at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery. [...]
Rogers also advocated for beginning work now to ensure the air base was protected during any future Base Realignment and Closures, which he estimated could occur again in 2016 or 2017. The air base was among the military posts considered during the 2005 BRAC process, Rogers said. [...] “I want to make sure Maxwell-Gunter has what it needs to never get on the BRAC list,” Rogers said.
Ok Rep. Rogers, thanks for that fascinating glimpse into the GOP psyche...
Good heavens, even Mo Brooks had sense enough to realize that sequestration was going to hurt the defense budget.
At the same time Rogers touts himself as a deficit hawk, he's beating the drum to keep federal money coming to his own district and laying the groundwork to keep Maxwell open.
Federal spending cuts are apparently only a good thing when they affect other districts.
Rep. Rogers, basic math isn't a liberal plot. The budget is zero sum: when you cut a department's budget and mandate - by law - across-the-board spending cuts, well, the department has to cut spending.
This isn't a difficult concept to understand, but it doesn't seem to penetrate the GOP bubble.
Remember this gem? AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks told AL.com's George Talbot that taxpayers "should not have to fork out a nickel" to pay for property damage in areas historically vulnerable to storms."At the time, we noted that Brooks' entire district was disaster prone, but now we find out that so is much of Alabama!
Just this past weekend, there were numerous retrospectives about the horrific 2011 tornado outbreak that spawned trails of destruction across Alabama in the space of a few hours. If we were to endure a similar situation, and the state needed to go asking for disaster relief from Washington, how might Congressman Brooks respond?
He hinted about that in January when asked about his opposition to Hurricane Sandy relief:
"We're at a point in this nation where hard choices have to be made, or the federal government is going to bankrupt the American people," he said. "We just can't keep spending money this way."
I'm a firm believer that, when people need help, they get it. And that doesn't matter where they live, who they are, or who they voted for in the last election. I mention that last part because I was sickened by some of the comments in this CNN article that compared donations to Boston bombing victims to the money donated to help the victims in West, Texas.
At the same time, I can understand the resentment of people on the Atlantic coast who survived a truly horrific and historic storm, only to have Congress dither and play politics with relief money. It would be hard to blame their representatives in Congress who might be tempted to deliver a little payback to their recalcitrant colleagues.
But this is worth remembering: we're all in this together. The storm front that hits another state today may hit us tomorrow. The people we helped recover from wildfires will help us after tornadoes devastate our communities. A progressive rallying cry is "People Before Profit," and I agree with that wholeheartedly.
But when it comes to disasters - whether natural or man-made - our slogan should be "People Before Politics."
For decades, North Alabama's been getting a pretty sweet deal on electricity rates, courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority. But President Obama's budget proposal released yesterday may change that. The budget suggests that debt concerns make make it necessary to sell TVA to private businesses.
The privatizing of TVA "can help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path," according to Obama's budget. The passage addressing TVA closes by saying his administration intends to review options for TVA, "including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole."
You have to wonder if this is an actual proposal, or a shot across the bow of the Republican deficit hawks who hate all federal expending - that doesn't directly affect their districts.
Take AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks (please!), for example. Fresh off his assertion that President Obama is a "Socialist" who is "in denial" about the nation's debt, Brooks quickly changed his tune yesterday and defended this New Deal legacy program:
Brooks said that assertion is "unsupportable and inexplicable," pointing out that TVA is self-sustaining and receives no tax subsidies. Brooks also questioned if TVA's assets could be sold for a profit.
But he's willing to "consider it," only if "...President can make that case to Tennessee Valley citizens that doing so will lower the costs of electricity to TVA consumers and is in America's interests."
Um.... isn't it written somewhere in the Conservative Bible that private industry is always more efficient than the government? We hear that talking point all the time even though it's patently false: private businesses have the resources to stack the deck in their favor via lobbying for tax breaks and even getting guaranteed profits.
Alabama Power executives no doubt already have their accountants busily calculating the financial windfall should the company be allowed to snap up even a portion of TVA's assets and customer base. Unlike private utilities, TVA isn't looking to turn a profit: compare that to Alabama Power's guarantees profit margin courtesy of the so-called Alabama "Public Service" Commission.
Hold on to your wallets, campers! This could be costly.
Waiting for AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks to reiterate his opposition to providing federal disaster aid to people who willfully live in "areas vulnerable to storms." Because, remember: his very own district is ground zero for tornado activity in Alabama and here we are getting help from that nasty federal government that Mo loves to hate:
Eight northeast Alabama counties today were approved for low-interest federal loans to help repair damages from the March 18 storms, Gov. Robert Bentley announced.
The qualifying counties are DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall, Cherokee, St. Clair, Blount, Jackson and Calhoun. Three counties in northwest Georgia were also approved for the loans.
The loans are available through the Small Business Administration. SBA officials visited areas impacted by the storms last week.
"Cleanup continues in several communities, and this assistance from the SBA will go a long way in helping our communities recover," Governor Bentley said in the announcement. "There is help available for homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations that suffered damage from the storms.
He also said taxpayers "should not have to fork out a nickel" to pay for property damage in areas historically vulnerable to storms.
Is this another example of helping constituents get the federal assistance they have a right to - even though people in New York & New Jersey don't?
The people in the affected counties should count their blessings that the full Congress didn't have to vote on this aid. I'm betting that Northeast reps from both parties would have a good bit to say about this swift action - and the NO votes of many Alabama Congressmen & Senators on Hurricane Sandy relief.
The only way anyone could use the phrase "charm offensive" to describe AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks is to note that he's totally without charm and often offensive. Even to his own House GOP leadership. You know, those guys who dole out committee appointments and control the contents of legislation with an iron fist.
The scuffle last week was over the "rule" for a bill that would have allowed more flexibility in managing defense cuts during the sequester. The "rule" refers to the length of time allowed for debate, amendments permitted, etc. It's like the guidebook for how a piece of legislation will be debated and voted on.
From The Hill:
Votes on rules are supposed to be party-line and serve as tests of a caucus’s unity. So it was disconcerting for leaders to see so many Republicans vote against the rule they had crafted.
Worse, from a leadership perspective, is that some Republicans say they plan on doing it again if they feel leaders are limiting them from offering controversial amendments on the floor. [...]
A source close to the GOP's whipping operation characterized it as a surprise and said some members who voted against the rule had initially said they were going to support it.
That source, quoting the popular Netflix series “House of Cards,” said the members broke the “deadliest sin” of “don’t surprise me.” [...] Along with Fleming and Huelskamp, and Reps. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) and Ted Yoho (Fla.) voted against the rule but for the funding bill.
Now, I know this sounds totally like some silly "political inside baseball," but leadership takes this stuff very seriously. If members lie to the whip (the vote counter) about how they plan to vote and the bill fails, the leadership is publicly humiliated. They take stuff like that personally and have no problems meting out punishment.
"Alabama ranks fourth in the nation for defense spending at 8.6 percent of its GDP," according to a briefing paper prepared for a recent Washington trip by the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County.
"About half, or $7 billion, of the state's defense revenue went to contractors and defense personnel at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville/Madison County," the report continued. Huntsville employs 36,000 people who manage more than $100 billion in federal defense spending each year, making the community fifth in the nation for receiving defense money. [...] One of the House sponsors is Brooks, who represents Huntsville and Alabama's 5th Congressional District. He's is a definite deficit hawk, but Brooks said Friday that defense has to remain a national priority.
And heaven help us if there's another huge tornado outbreak, because a lot of GOP Congressmen from the Northeast probably won't.
Personally, I think everybody should have voted against the bill. Why give just defense flexibility but not include any provisions for the communities and citizens losing access to social services?
But Congressman Brooks made it a double: he angered the leadership with a vote against the rule and then voted in favor of a bad bill.
This morning, the House of Representatives finally passed the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. House leaders had previously insisted on their own version of the bill which, among other deficiencies, provided inadequate protection for lesbians and Native American women. The bill is now headed to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The shanda is that only 3 members of Alabama's entire 9 member Congressional delegation voted in favor of the bill.
In the House, only Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Congressman Spencer Bachus (AL-06) supported the bill. Mo Brooks, Mike Rogers, Martha Roby, Robert Aderholdt, and Jo Bonner continued their long membership in the "Party of NO" caucus.
In the Senate, Senator Shelby voted yes, while Sessions predictably voted no.
One interesting tidbit was the disunity among House leaders on how to proceed. For the 3rd time since December, Speaker Boehner broke the "Hastert rule" and brought a bill to the floor that was opposed by a majority of House Republicans.
It came after a November election in which Republicans lost ground with female voters and some key GOP candidates made embarrassing misstatements on the sensitive issue of rape.
After the Senate passed the bill on a strongly bipartisan 78 to 22 vote earlier this month, a group of 18 House Republicans wrote a letter to their leaders urging a vote on the Senate bill instead of another Republican bill. Fifty-nine Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the GOP version of the measure, a key break that paved the way for the vote on the Senate bill.
Republicans who supported the Senate bill included former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Cantor, who had led the GOP’s effort on the issue, voted against it.
Kudos to Sewell, Bachus, and even Shelby for their yes votes on an important issue that affects women and families in this country.
Bad news for those of us who live in what AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks derisively calls one of those "areas vulnerable to storms." As we head into peak tornado season in Alabama, we may be doing so with a hobbled National Weather Service.
Government managers could also face wrenching decisions on which missions and employees are most needed. For the National Weather Service to handle an 8.2 percent cut, all of its approximately 4,600 employees would have to be furloughed for four weeks, said Richard Hirn, general counsel for the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Under that scenario, Hirn saw no way for the agency to maintain around-the-clock operations at its 122 forecasting offices.
“It’s just not going to work,” he said.
hmmm... Huntsville has a National Weather Service office - one that required an Act of Congress to keep open (thank you, former Congressman Bud Cramer!)
Since the National Weather Service no longer had plans to keep an office open in Huntsville, Congressman Bud Cramer sought Congressional legislation to do this. After a decade of uncertainty, $3 million in startup money was budgeted in the Fiscal Year 2002 Commerce, Justice, and State appropriations bill for a new full service Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Huntsville.
Wow. What a change a decade makes.... Instead of a Congressman who could work with Congress to support necessary services in his district, we now have a Congressman who's main interest appears to be burning bridges instead of building them.
If Brooks isn't interested in his own district's well being, why should anyone else in Washington care? It's not a stretch to think that cutbacks in all areas might begin first in the districts represented by Congressmen/women who support these budget cuts.
That's us, folks! But don't worry, we can always shoot at the tornadoes if they threaten us this spring. If nothing else, it will give us something to do with the last 10 seconds of our lives.