Editorial Febraury 27, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

 Editorial

HR 240 Off Aye, on No

 “….it is a continuation of a strategy that no longer meets its strategic intent and caters to unreasonable argument.

It should be starting to add up that when a political party gains seats (power) on Capitol Hill not a lot changes in the area of legislative procedures. Just as Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had to deal with Republican Senators filibustering presidential nominees, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doggedly tried to end a filibuster against HR 240, the DHS funding bill that included the reason for the Democratic filibuster; text aimed to thwart the President’s immigration proposal to eventually bring around 5 million illegal immigrants into the tax system.

The bill represents a strategy used consistently by both parties but most recently Republicans over the past two years while struggling against the Democrat majority in the Senate; move a necessary or must-pass bill through with a rider unpalatable to the opposition. The strategy was seen in over fifty bills purporting to create jobs but which contained text repealing or crippling the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The fifty-some bills to create jobs and diminish the ACA passed by the House over the past two years would never have been expected to succeed with those ‘poison bill’ provisions most Democrats would never agree to, but they weren’t intended to succeed. As the bills mounted up the Democrats lamented the economic and social impacts of repealing their signature healthcare law while Republicans, in campaign rhetoric, presented the Democrats as rejecting over fifty bills that would have created much needed jobs had that ‘terrible healthcare bill’ not been in the way. As such Republicans kept the ACA repeal on the front burner politically but legislatively those fifty-some bills were a waste of time and paper…unless you calculate attempted gains in political capital as success.

HR 240 had no real value as a campaign talking point. Rather it shows us the true divisions between the parties; on one side the President is seen as prone to acting unilaterally against the wishes of Congress and in areas Congress is responsible for and is therefore acting against the Constitution. On the other side the President is acting within the law as previous presidents have and is offering a fiscally responsible plan to bring a chunk of the some 13 million illegal immigrants into the sunlight to pay taxes and bolster the federal coffers through payroll taxes.

It has been said from time-to-time on the Hill that if you find you are digging yourself into a hole, stop digging. The idiom holds up to a definition of insanity and applies well to HR 240; it is a continuation of a strategy that no longer meets its strategic intent and caters to unreasonable argument. It is an important bill that funds an agency primarily tasked with keeping us safe in a world growing less safe by the day. It is no place for political wrangling.

And still the hole keeps getting deeper. McConnell got the picture with his rejected attempts at cloture on HR 240 and came up with a Hail Mary pass that was predictable but full of devils in the details; McConnell proposed a vote on a stand-alone DHS funding bill assured of passage. Next will be a revised version of HR 240’s provisions regarding the President’s immigration plan. Under that new bill the President’s unilateral decisions would be blocked but the DREAMERS, those illegals brought here as children that are integrated into the social and economic culture would not be impacted.

McConnell’s procedures are about what they ought to be. It is the House where the problems are imminent; will the House will go along with a little lightening up on the President’s plan? The House has yet to show any sympathy for the position it is holding McConnell in and it was the same House leadership that allowed the last government shutdown over similar contentious issues.

Shutting down DHS is the threat if some Republicans don’t get the immigration language they want or at least it was a threat until the heat was turned up then we heard that 80% if DHS essential personnel l would still go to work but without pay so not such a big deal. That is the hole that’s been dug and if Homeland Security was not critical to our safety as the world becomes more and more violent the situation would almost be humorous as we watch legislative / political juggling of a failed strategy come home to roost.##

 

Foreign Affairs

 

Defense Official: French Carrier Enters Persian Gulf, ISIS Strike Missions Could Start Soon

February 20, 2015 by Sam LaGrone

French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) has entered the Persian Gulf and could soon start strike missions against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) fighters, defense officials told USNI News on Friday. The ship entered crossed the Strait of Hormuz and entered the region on Feb. 15 after completing operations  in the Gulf of Aden and is set to join USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in conducting airstrikes.

“They’re in the [Persian] Gulf,” a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) told USNI News on Friday.

“They haven’t gone operational yet but they probably will soon.”

French president François Hollande announced the mission on Jan. 14, a week after the attacks in Paris on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

During his remarks in Toulon, Hollande said the attacks, “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier.” More…

 

Quotes on the Issues
“As ISIS has grown, its goals and intentions have become clearer. Al Qaeda conceived of itself as the vanguard of a global insurgency mobilizing Muslim communities against secular rule. ISIS, in contrast, seeks to control territory and create a “pure” Sunni Islamist state governed by a brutal interpretation of sharia; to immediately obliterate the political borders of the Middle East that were created by Western powers in the twentieth century; and to position itself as the sole political, religious, and military authority over all of the world’s Muslims.”
Audrey Kurth Cronin foreign affairs magazine.

On DHS funding…
“The Republican leader in the Senate [Mitch McConnell] says the House ought to act. The Speaker says the Senate ought to act. Somebody needs to act. Somebody needs to act like an adult. Somebody needs to fund the security and safety of the American people. Their own Senate colleagues disagree with their strategy of holding national security hostage to their political goals on immigration.”  Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

 

More on Congressional Benefits

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress
Congressional Research Service
Summary June 13, 2014
Prior to 1984, neither federal civil service employees nor Members of Congress paid Social Security taxes, nor were they eligible for Social Security benefits. Members of Congress and other federal employees were instead covered by a separate pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act (P.L. 98-21) required federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. These amendments also required all Members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress. Because CSRS was not designed to coordinate with Social Security, Congress directed the development of a new retirement plan for federal workers. The result was the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-335). Members of Congress first elected in 1984 or later are covered automatically under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). More…
Congress and Benefits
Is it true that . . . Members of Congress do not pay into Social Security and when they retire they receive a pension equal to their congressional salary for the rest of their life?
The answer is no. All members of Congress pay Social Security taxes in the same amounts as they would if they were employed in the private sector at the same salary level. The amount of a congressional pension varies and depends on years of service, age at the time of retirement, and salary.
The facts: The confusion about Social Security probably results from the fact that before 1984, Senators and Representatives did not participate in the Social Security program. Like all federal government employees at that time, members of Congress were covered by a pension plan, called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), that did not require payment of Social Security taxes and did not provide Social Security benefits. In 1983, Congress passed a law (P.L. 98-21) that required all federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. The law also required all members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress. Because the CSRS was not designed to coordinate with Social Security, Congress directed the development of a new retirement plan for federal employees, called the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which does coordinate a federal pension with Social Security.
Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. They are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary. More…

 

Senate History

 

June 26, 1787
Senate Terms and Salaries
The framers of the Constitution, meeting in Philadelphia on June 26, 1787, made two key decisions about Senate operations. They established the term of office and the source of compensation.A majority of convention delegates shared James Madison’s view that the Senate needed protection from momentary shifts of public opinion. The best protection would be a lengthy term of office for its members, without possibility of recall. Madison thought nine years would serve that purpose, with one-third of the seats expiring every three years. When put to a vote, however, his proposal lost by a large margin. With other delegates pushing for just four years to keep members from losing touch with their constituencies, the convention adopted a six-year compromise.The convention then turned to the touchy issue of members’ salaries. Benjamin Franklin believed the Senate should represent the nation’s wealthy classes; therefore if no salary were provided, only wealthy persons would serve. He warned that if the convention authorized salaries, the public might suspect it of having “carved out places” for the younger delegates who would be natural senators. When put to a vote, Franklin’s proposal nearly won, with five states in favor and six opposed. More…
Just a reminder to look back into our archives. This week we look back to 2009; President Obama took office, the recession settled in globally, North Korea was acting up, and Afghanistan continued. For a look into other years going back to 2004 go here….