Over the next two weeks, while Congress is in recess, the House and Senate will begin to hammer out small differences between the budget resolutions that passed each chamber. Leaders in both chambers have vowed to meet the April 15th deadline to produce a final budget resolution.
The final product of House and Senate negotiations on a budget resolution matters less than the process by which any deal will be enacted. Congress, particularly the Senate, can use “reconciliation” to make policy changes that involve the final budget agreement. Reconciliation limits the amount of debate in the Senate on the final resolution and, most importantly, operates outside the filibuster process, so it requires only a simply majority of 51 votes for passage.
Reconciliation was used in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress to produce the last real balanced budget. It was used to pass the Bush tax cuts early in his presidency. It was also used to enact ObamaCare.
Keep these examples in mind, because if the GOP finally uses its power to repeal ObamaCare under reconciliation, the media will no doubt scream about the “unprecedented” nature of the congressional actions.
With reconciliation, the GOP now has the very tool it campaigned for during these past 5 years. It could repeal ObamaCare, enact long-overdue tax reform and give citizens real choices over entitlement programs. It can push its policies without the specter of a government shutdown or against the false narrative of a government default.
Obama will no doubt veto the final budget resolution, especially if it repeals his signature legislative legacy. Fine. No single action will better define the stakes in the next presidential election.
Congress can simply make small changes to the final document and repeatedly resubmit to Obama for his continued vetoes. In this case, he alone will be blocking the adoption of a final budget resolution. The media will no doubt try to continue his false “GOP obstructionist” narrative, but the optics will be inescapable for voters.
Category Archives: Amendments
The federal Controlled Substances Act contains a blatant lie about cannabis, e.g, that it has no known medicinal benefit, and hence, it is listed as a Schedule I drug.
That’s obvious baloney factually. Moreover, more potent drugs–opioids (such as morphine), cocaine, etc.–are listed as Schedule II drugs, meaning they are proscribed for recreational use under federal law but may be used for proper medical purposes.
Marijuana should be in the same category, as I have written repeatedly.
Now, a bipartisan bill (Paul, R-KY, Booker D-NJ, Gillibrand D-NY) has been filed to do just that. S-683 would reclassify MJ into a Schedule II drug. It would also permit scientific study of marijuana’s medical potentials.
The reclassification of marijuana and opening the door to scientific research on its potential medicinal benefits are long overdue. Who could oppose and on what possible grounds?
More controversially, the bill would require the Feds to respect state’s rights with regard to enforcement of drug laws around marijuana. In other words, the Feds would be bound by state law.
Me? I’d take that part out. I think the Feds have a strong place in establishing uniform drug enforcement throughout the country. I don’t think the states should be allowed to tie federal hands, thereby creating a hodgepodge system in which federal laws are enforced in some states but not in others.
My wife, the syndicated San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Debra J. Saunders, has a good, and far detailed, column today on the bill (here is the link), arguing that it should please conservatives as well as liberals. She opines that Senator Dianne Feinstein may hold the key to passage and hopes that President Obama can “evolve” on this issue.
Time for a change. In our system, a bad law should be changed, not ignored. It is long past time to reclassify Marijuana out of Schedule I. S-683 should be modified, as I described above, and passed into law.
In focus this week will be efforts by Palin and others, backed by digital ads, to win Virginia’s support for resolutions to use Article V of the Constitution to hold a convention of states and limit Washington’s power. A vote is scheduled Wednesday and has the support of the House and Senate Republican leaders.
“Three states have already successfully passed legislation calling for a convention of the states, and right now it’s Virginia’s turn,” said Palin.
“The beauty of this process is that neither the President nor Congress has the authority to stop it. It is truly in the hands of We the People,” she added.
Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota are voting on joining the convention this month also.
National Journal’s Ron Fournier, a journalist whom I respect, is hardly a conservative. He’s said before he supported passage of the Affordable Care Act. And so it’s worth noting when someone like Mr. Fournier says, as he did the other night, that “the central attribute you have to have as any leader, in any walk of life and certainly in government is trust — and this president has destroyed the credibility of his administration, himself and government itself.”
Mr. Fournier’s judgment is a harsh one, but an entirely appropriate one. I take no joy in saying the president lies and then lies about his lies. But that is what the record shows, indisputably; and those lies have now caught up with Mr. Obama. They are having a corrosive effect on trust between him and the people he was elected to serve. It’s one thing to be inept, as the president surely is. It’s quite another to deceive and dissemble, to govern with the philosophy that the ends justify the means, and to act in ways that show contempt for the truth and for the American polity. This has been a hallmark of the Obama years, and it’s done irreparable damage to him, and great damage to our political and civic culture.
This is not what hope and changer were supposed to be.
All of which leads me to “The Lame Duck Congress,” one of my favorite episodes of “The West Wing.” As the episode begins, the Democrats have taken a shellacking in the midterm elections. President Jed Bartlet is considering calling a lame-duck session of the Senate to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty. His staff knows that the crucial vote will be cast by Senator Tony Marino of Pennsylvania, a leading proponent of the treaty who has just lost his seat. Toby Ziegler, the White House communications director, is tasked with tracking him down, to be sure that Marino and the other votes he influences are on board with the idea of a lame-duck session.
Near the end of Act Three, the two men finally meet, and Marino drops a bombshell: If President Bartlet calls a lame-duck session, he will not vote to ratify. The following dialogue ensues:
MARINO: Toby, I’m a lame duck Senator. The people of Pennsylvania voted me out and Morgan Mitchell …
MARINO: Nobody expects, nobody expects. Toby, it seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other. And I think that should change. I’m a senator for another 10 weeks, and I’m going to choose to respect these people and what they want. You call a lame-duck session now, and I’ve got to abstain.
The deftly written scene appeals to a principle of democracy often mooted nowadays but poorly understood. Winners like to say that elections have consequences. But the consequence isn’t — or shouldn’t be — “Now we can do what we want.” The principle should be, in the words of Gerald Ford (on quite a different subject) “Here the people rule.” The fictitious Senator Marino understands that. The voters considered his position on the issue and chose the other guy. That, for Marino, is the end of the matter.
Americans have a well-established constitutional right to record police officers as they publicly perform their duties. Yet cops across the country continue to harass and arrest people for exercising that right, using bogus charges such as wiretapping, resisting arrest, and interfering with police. Yesterday yet another federal judge issued a clear message to those cops: Cut it out.
The case was brought by Antonio Buehler, an Austin, Texas, activist who has had several run-ins with camera-shy cops. The first incident occurred on January 1, 2012, when Buehler pulled into a 7-11 in Austin to refuel his truck and observed a traffic stop during which police dragged a screaming passenger from a car and knocked her to the ground. After Buehler took out his phone and began taking pictures of the encounter from a distance, Officer Patrick Obosrki manhandled him and arrested him for “resisting arrest, search, or transportation.”
Buehler filed a complaint about the incident with the Austin Police Department but never received a satisfactory response. The experience led him to start the Peaceful Streets Project, which aims to help “individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement officials accountable.” The organization routinely records police encounters “to prevent and document police brutality.” That work led to two more arrests of Buehler, both for “interference with public duties,” on August 26, 2012, and September 21, 2012. The third arrest again involved Oborski. On both occasions police took Buehler’s camera and never returned it.
In response to Buehler’s federal lawsuit, Oborski and several other officers claimed they did not realize he had a right to record them. But according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane, they really should have. In yesterday’s decision, which allowed the lawsuit to proceed, Lane cites “a robust consensus of circuit courts of appeals”—including the 1st, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th—that “the First Amendment encompasses a right to record public officials as they perform their official duties.” He also notes two decisions in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which includes Texas, “seems to assume, without explicitly stating, that photographing a police officer performing his official duties falls under the umbrella of protected expression.”