Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Ball Never Left Their Court...

On January 1st, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was pointing the accusing finger of accusation at Congress and particularly at the President for the amount of time it took to come to an agreement to prevent going over the financial cliff, and he did this with a straight face! The man that will go down in history for being the first, and probably the only one, to ever filibuster his own bill, the man that openly said his main concern was for Obama to be a one term president, putting aside and on a back burner what was needed to do to save the country.

First of all, it is up to the House of Representatives to create a bill and negotiate the points presented in the President’s plan. John Boehner failed to do this; he even failed to pass his own plan with his own caucus! Boehner’s unprofessionalism and failure to lead, simply shrugged his shoulders, passed the bucket to the Senate and he and the entire House of Representatives went their merry way to enjoy their very undeserved Holiday vacation.

When John Boehner left this important task to the Senate, he did it knowing all too well that even when the Senate could come to an agreement to resolve the matter he was not capable of doing, this agreement would return to the House for approval and, most likely the Republican Representatives will not pass it.

But going back to McConnell and the statement he gave on the Senate Floor trying to blame Democrats for the failures displayed by the Republicans, I would like to mention that since winning the re-election President Obama has asked Congress to negotiate and come to an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. Since November 8th, 2012 the President has made this plea twelve times...

On November 9th, the very next day after his re-election the President said: “Now, already, I’ve put forward a detailed plan that allows us to make these investments while reducing our deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. I want to be clear -- I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise. I’m open to new ideas. I’m committed to solving our fiscal challenges. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced. I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I'm not going to do that.

The next day on November 10th during his weekly address he once more addressed the issue by saying “...We need a majority in Congress to listen – and they should start by making sure taxes don’t go up on the 98% of Americans making under $250,000 a year starting January 1. This is something we all agree on. Even as we negotiate a broader deficit reduction package, Congress should extend middle-class tax cuts right now. It’s a step that would give millions of families and 97% of small businesses the peace of mind that will lead to new jobs and faster growth. There’s no reason to wait.

Four days later on November 14th he tackled the subject once more, “As I’ve said before, I’m open to compromise and I’m open to new ideas. And I’ve been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree on the need for more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we’re going to be serious about reducing the deficit. 
Because when it comes to taxes, there are two pathways available: Option one, if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, everybody’s taxes will automatically go up -- including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and the 97 percent of small businesses who earn less than $250,000 a year. That doesn’t make sense. Our economy can’t afford that right now. Certainly no middle-class family can afford that right now. And nobody in either party says that they want it to happen.

On November 16th, on John Boehner’s birthday the President approached the leaders of the house at a congressional meeting making it clear what was critical for them to resolve when he opened the session by saying “Well, I want to welcome the congressional leadership here and thank them for their time. I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do. We've got to make sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families, that our economy remains strong, that we're creating jobs. And that's an agenda that Democrats and Republicans and independents, people all across the country share.

The very next day, on November 17th the President stated “We shouldn’t hold the middle class hostage while Congress debates tax cuts for the wealthy. Let’s begin our work by actually doing what we all agree on. Let’s keep taxes low for the middle class. And let’s get it done soon – so we can give families and businesses some good news going into the holiday season.

President Obama was on a trip to Asia the week of November 24th and is the only week where he did not plead with Congress to act before the Fiscal Cliff’s deadline, at least not publicly. Upon his return he went at it again and on November 28th during the Cabinet meeting he stated the topics in need of prompt attention. The first topic was the need to create jobs but the second was avoiding the financial cliff and this is what he said: “The second thing that we’ll be talking about, obviously, is what’s on the minds of a lot of American families across the country, and that is making sure that we’ve got this fiscal cliff dealt with and that middle-class taxes don’t go up. I already spoke extensively about that today. I’ll just repeat: There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for those families. In fact, it would be bad for the world economy. And so I think it’s very important that we get that resolved, and I am very open to a fair and balanced approach to reduce our deficit and provide the kind of certainty that businesses and consumers need so that we can keep this recovery going.

On November 30th, during a visit to Rodon Group Manufacturing he brought the subject up to those present, expressing what worried him the most. He said “But in Washington, nothing is easy, so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations. And all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen. I’m willing to do that, and I’m hopeful that enough members of Congress in both parties are willing to do that as well. We can solve these problems. But where the clock is really ticking right now is on middle-class taxes. At the end of the year, middle-class taxes that are currently in place are set to expire -- middle-class tax cuts that are currently in place are set to expire.

There are two things that can happen. If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. Every family, everybody here, you’ll see your taxes go up on January 1st. I mean, I’m assuming that doesn’t sound too good to you.

On December 1st during his Weekly Address, he mentioned again the need to resolve the Fiscal Cliff matter and asked Americans to urge Congress to act when he said: “So let’s begin by doing what we all agree on. Both parties say we should keep middle-class taxes low. The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way.

But it’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans. And if you agree with me, then I could use your help. Let your congressman know what $2,000 means to you. Give them a call. Write them an email. Or tweet them using the hashtag “My2K.” That’s My2K.

On December 8th on the Weekly Address, the President again urged Congress to act “Now, Congress can avoid all this by passing a law that prevents a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. That means 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime. Even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. And families everywhere would enjoy some peace of mind.

The Senate has already done their part. Now we’re just waiting for Republicans in the House to do the same thing. But so far, they’ve put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans. If we want to protect the middle class, then the math just doesn’t work.

Because the failure shown by Republicans, on December 21st the President faced the nation and said “I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid. In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days.

Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple.

By December 28th, nothing had been done and it was on this day that he gave an ultimatum, which is why I believe Mitch McConnell came to an agreement with Harry Reid, that otherwise he would not have. On this day, the President gave precise instructions to avoid the Fiscal Cliff. Following is the full transcript of the President’s speech.
“Good afternoon, everybody. For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit -- a balanced plan that would cut spending in a responsible way but also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and, above all, protect our middle class and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

I still want to get this done. It’s the right thing to do for our families, for our businesses, and for our entire economy. But the hour for immediate action is here. It is now.

We’re now at the point where, in just four days, every American’s tax rates are scheduled to go up by law. Every American’s paycheck will get considerably smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy, it would be bad for middle-class families, and it would be bad for businesses that depend on family spending. Fortunately, Congress can prevent it from happening if they act right now.

I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I’m optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time. Senators Reid and McConnell are working on such an agreement as we speak.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time between Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote –- one that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to two million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction.

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to actually come to a vote. If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can –- but we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work. If you can get a majority in the House and you can get a majority in the Senate, then we should be able to pass a bill.

So the American people are watching what we do here. Obviously, their patience is already thin. This is déjà vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable; why everything always has to wait until the last minute. Well, we're now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. Not right now.

The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs. The housing market is recovering, but that could be impacted if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already you're seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction that they see in Washington.

Economists, business leaders all think that we’re poised to grow in 2013 –- as long as politics in Washington don’t get in the way of America’s progress.

So we've got to get this done. I just want to repeat -- we had a constructive meeting today. Senators Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, over to the House and done in a timely fashion so that we've met the December 31st deadline. But given how things have been working in this town, we always have to wait and see until it actually happens. The one thing that the American people should not have to wait and see is some sort of action.

So if we don’t see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor -- and I've asked Senator Reid to do this -- put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork, then, for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the New Year.

But let's not miss this deadline. That’s the bare minimum that we should be able to get done, and it shouldn’t be that hard since Democrats and Republicans both say they don’t want to see taxes go up on middle-class families.

I just have to repeat -- outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again. Ordinary folks, they do their jobs. They meet deadlines. They sit down and they discuss things, and then things happen. If there are disagreements, they sort through the disagreements. The notion that our elected leadership can't do the same thing is mind-boggling to them. It needs to stop.

So I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved. Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want, but let's make sure that middle-class families and the American economy -- and, in fact, the world economy -- aren't adversely impacted because people can't do their jobs.

Thank you very much, everybody.”
The President gave two more speeches on the subject, one on December 29th and another on December 31st urging Congress to reach an agreement.
In order to avoid an up and down vote where Republicans would have been exposed as the ones highjacking our economy, McConnell came into an agreement with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. Republicans, and particularly McConnell, refused to do anything that the President requested from them, even if it’s for the good of the country. Their refusal is so obvious that McConnell on his Senate Floor Statement couldn’t thank the President for his relentless effort to save the economy and the country, instead he only thanked the Vice President – a white man – by saying: “I also want to thank the Vice President for recognizing the importance of preventing this tax hike on the American people and stepping up to play a crucial role in getting us there. 

What McConnell did was to kick the can down the road - basically the only thing Republicans know how to do when they know they must legislate or face the consequences.  Republicans just put a band-aid on the economy, but they are incapable of performing their job.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to come to an agreement, and this shouldn’t be the model for how we do things around here, but I appreciate his willingness to get this done for the country.”

I agree, it shouldn’t have taken this long but who were the ones that did nothing? Who were the ones that went on vacation when a matter this important was pending? Who were the ones that didn’t care for the middle class, the children, the seniors and the unemployed? I’m sorry McConnell, you and the Republicans in Congress are not worthy of holding such powers, you are not worthy of receiving the salaries we are paying you and I call to the American people to call for their resignation. They work for us, they work because of us and since they are not doing the job they were hired to do I think they should take their turn at the unemployment lines.

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