Editorial January 8, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

The idea of class action lawsuit reform has remained on the conservative wish list since at least 2005 when the Senate tried to move a bill capping and otherwise limiting court settlements on complaints claiming mesothelioma, a crippling and terminable lung disease gotten from working with asbestos.

What made that bill of questionable ethics was what caused the suits; that the company running the asbestos mines and the US Navy knew that asbestos is a major health hazard but didn’t admit it. The other consideration that had to have caused the bill to never leave the Senate was the detail that then Vice President Cheney had, previous to taking office, held a principal position with Halliburton, a company that bought the company beleaguered with thousands of asbestos complaints. Add to that the Vice President is also the President of the Senate and can vote on a tie brought the matter to a light that even the most naive would find suspiciously tied to the White House.

This week we see a bill that would seem to be again aiming at limiting awards to those seeking damages, HR1927 is a class action suit reform bill that actually makes a bit of sense but is still questionable beyond the bill’s heart; to make it so companies have to pay less for the damage they created with their products or services. The bill aims to correct a class action procedure that allows those not injured economically or health wise to enter in a class action suit along with those injured, as is currently the case. The thinking behind that provision is that the ultimate court award (if there is one) would be spread out over a wider field of complainants thereby lowering the individual awards at the expense of those who may have actually been damaged. Where that provision goes astray is the requirement that the main complainant provide to the courts substantial evidence that all complainants have suffered equally before the court will consider hearing the case.

Opponents to HR 1927 correctly hold that requiring the court to review the evidence that all involved in the suit suffered equally before deciding to take the case is an unnecessary burden that is already met after the court decides on awards, but the idea of narrowing the recipients to those who actually have been damaged by the product or service might curtail some frivolous class action suits or at least set a reasonable standard for rewards to non-injured complainants that would not be at the expense of those truly injured.

Hamilton on Congress

What Do We Mean By “Representative Government”?

By Lee H. Hamilton

“While representative democracy rests on a core set of principles, it remains a constantly evolving concept.”

Hamilton

Hamilton

With a presidential election year fast approaching, we’re in for a lot of public talk about the state of American democracy. Much of that discussion will be insightful and thought-provoking, but there’s a good chance you’ll also find a lot of it vague and hard to pin down.

There’s a reason for this. Even our political leaders, the people who are most familiar with the system’s workings, have a hard time describing it.

In fact, they even have a hard time labeling it. Ours is not actually a pure democracy: it’s more accurate to say that we live in a “representative democracy” – that is, the people don’t themselves make decisions, but delegate that authority to their elected representatives. In this sense, we really live in a republic, a word you don’t often hear from the podium.

Perhaps the best way to start thinking about what American representative democracy really means is to recall the Pledge of Allegiance, which is an oath to the Republic that our flag symbolizes, and in particular to an ideal: that our nation will strive for liberty and justice for all. Plenty of well-meaning people, in the heat of the political moment, seize on one or the other of those twin poles to support their agenda – they insist upon liberty or they demand justice. The Pledge, however, makes it clear that these core principles are inseparable.

Still, they are ideals. They’re not sufficient to define a representative democracy.

Indeed, no single feature does. One of our core tenets holds that the people are sovereign – that we give our consent to be governed through regular participation in the elections that decide who will represent us. Yet elections in and of themselves don’t define our republic, either; there are plenty of countries around the world whose elections are used to distort democracy. More…

 


 

Quotes on the Issues

ACA REPEAL

From the Right

“Congress has now passed and sent to the President a bill to repeal the main parts of Obamacare. “Now, lawmakers must show that they can replace our broken health system with one that gives Americans access to the high-quality health care they desire at prices they can afford.

“It can be done. …a replacement package should give patients direct control over their health care dollars and decision-making. Equitable tax treatment and truly competitive health insurance markets can help all Americans fully own their health coverage.

“The bill also takes a good step in redirecting some federal funding away from the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, to other health centers that provide more comprehensive care. Congress can build on this by eliminating all federal funding of Planned Parenthood during this year’s budgeting process.” Jim DeMint, President of The Heritage Foundation

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From the Left

“Many have been wondering what new, ambitious ideas Republicans would put forward to kick off this new session of the 114th Congress.  Well, today we have the answer: the sixty-second effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act that everybody knows is not going anywhere.

“What we have before us is not anything new.  In fact, it’s a repeal of health reform that goes even further than [what] the Republicans brought to the House Floor in October, this time also ending tax credits and subsidies that enable those with modest incomes to afford health insurance and repealing the expansion of Medicaid.  The reason there’s not another bill on the Floor is because people would then see how draconian the policies are.  These are components of the Affordable Care Act that have enabled millions of previously uninsured Americans to gain coverage since 2010.”…”as the Ranking Member has pointed out, 22 million Americans – 22 million Americans – to lose their health care, increase premiums by approximately 20%, provide employers with much uncertainty, and worsen the outlook for deficits over the long term. Only in the first ten-year window do you have savings. CBO says if you go to the second ten years, this bill is a loser and exacerbates the deficit.” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

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ISIS

“[ISIS] will continue to exist. You are not going to eradicate [ISIS] in the next year,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a briefing, when asked whether he expected the threat of ISIS to be eliminated by the end of President Obama’s time in office. “Just as al Qaeda continues to exist, although significantly degraded.” CBS News

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Sid, The New Jihadi John

LONDON (Reuters) — The masked militant in an Islamic State video showing the killing of five men accused by the group of being Western spies is believed to be a Londoner known as Sid who once sold inflatable bouncy castles.

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Gains Against ISIS

BAGHDAD — ISIS has lost an estimated 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group said Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from ISIS on the estimates from the coalition, which is made up of countries including Britain, France and Jordan that have been bombing the extremists’ positions. NBCNews.com

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Attack on Libya Oil Fields

BENGHAZI, Libya — The branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya said Monday it had detonated two car bombs at a checkpoint near the country’s oil fields and clashed with fighters allied with the internationally recognized government there.

Ali al-Hassi, a spokesman for the forces led by Ibrahim al-Jadhran that control the majority of Libya’s oil fields, said six of their fighters were killed in Monday’s attacks, along with five ISIS fighters in the coastal port town of Siddra. CBS News.com

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Peace Concert in Syria, Seriously

ISIS generally doesn’t respond well to music.

But that isn’t stopping James Twyman, an author and musician based in Portland, Oregon, from planning a trip to ISIS-held territory in Syria later this month to help bring peace to the region through the power of a musical-prayer concert.

“Performing the peace prayers in ISIS Controlled Syria will be the most important and dangerous peace mission of my life,” the self-described “Peace Troubadour” blogged last month. The Daily Beast

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North Korea

Time for More Sanctions

WASHINGTON, DC – “Today’s apparent nuclear test by North Korea reminds the world precisely why the United States and its international partners must take a firm line against any attempts by radical regimes to pursue nuclear weapons.  While the enslaved people of North Korea starve behind a wall of fear and oppression, Kim Jong Un and his inner circle continue to use the pursuit of even more dangerous nuclear weapons technology to threaten our allies in South Korea and Japan in the hopes of legitimizing their brutal rule and blackmailing the United States and our partners into easing sanctions.  They will not succeed.

“I agree with those who are calling for more pressure on Pyongyang, and I would strongly encourage the U.N. Security Council to impose additional sanctions against North Korea and those with whom it does business.” House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD)

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Time for More Missiles

“It may take some time to know exactly what was detonated in North Korea.  But what is clear is that the world is rapidly growing more dangerous, and the United States cannot afford to focus only on ISIS or Iran or Russia.  We must be prepared to protect our national security against many threats.  Unfortunately, the view around the world is that U.S. leadership is in decline while the Administration’s inaction only fuels those concerns.

The U.S. must work with our South Korean allies to deploy missile defense systems, including THAAD, on the peninsula and work at home to strengthen our homeland missile defenses.  We must also take immediate steps to strengthen our own nuclear deterrent, which is the foundation for our other defense capabilities.” Rep Mac Thornberry, Chair, House Armed Services Committee (R-TX)

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UN to Step In

The U.N. Security Council is set to implement “significant” punitive measures after North Korea’s nuclear test and will begin working on a new resolution “immediately,” a statement released by Security Council President Elbio Rosselli says.

After Wednesday’s meeting, the council, which includes China, Russia and the United States, together condemned the test as a “clear violation of (past) resolutions … and of the nonproliferation regime.” CNN

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Wildlife Refuge Standoff

Constitutional Freedom Group Renamed in Social Media

Before the militia group at the center of a standoff on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon named themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom,” social media users came up with their own title.

The Internet is making a mockery of the group, calling them everything from “Vanilla ISIS” to “Y’All Qaeda.”

Since Monday, the hashtag #VanillaISIS has received around 1,050 tweets per hour, while #YallQaeda has been shared more than 2,600 times per hour, according to social media analytics site twazzup. CBS News

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Second Standoff for Bundy

Saturday night, armed men broke into the desolate headquarters of a federally owned wildlife refuge in Oregon and said they weren’t going to leave until the government stops its “tyranny.”

It just got weirder from there.

The group’s spokesman is Ammon Bundy, the son of anti-government Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The father made national news when he led a huge standoff against the feds in 2014 in which he and his brother participated. The standoff took on racist shades when the elder Bundy wondered aloud to a New York Times reporter whether black people would be better off enslaved. CNN

Zero Support from Congress

“Regardless of politics, we can all agree – as elected leaders in Washington and as an American community – that any armed takeover of public property is not acceptable and should end quickly and peacefully. Defending, supporting or excusing the use of force as a means of political expression threatens our way of life and undermines our democracy. This resolution is a clear, simple call for the rule of law to prevail in Oregon and for the armed militia members to accept legal responsibility for their actions. It is nonpartisan, and we believe there can be no serious disagreement about its merits. We call on our colleagues to support this resolution, to come together to end a potentially volatile and dangerous situation, and to make it clear that the threat of force to achieve political goals has no support in Congress.” Hoyer, Pelosi, Grijalva Joint Statement on House Resolution Urging Militia Members to Surrender to Law Enforcement in Oregon

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Magic Mondays

with Congressman Marc Pocan

Senate Stories

February 5, 1862
Friendship or Treason?

Photo of Jesse Bright of Indiana

He was a large man who walked with a swagger. Despite his limited formal education, he built a flourishing law practice and rose rapidly in the world of Indiana Democratic politics. Abrupt and hot-tempered, he was among the shrewdest of his state’s political figures.

By 1845, Jesse Bright had become president of the Indiana state senate. Capitalizing on an opportunity to break a tied vote on the selection of a United States senator, he engineered his own election to that office.

In the Senate, Bright’s knowledge of the chamber’s rules and precedents won him the post of president pro tempore on several occasions. In the 1850s, however, he lost many of his natural political allies who were uncomfortable with his increasing support of legislation to protect slavery in the nation’s territories. By 1860, his ownership of a Kentucky farm and 20 slaves led antislavery Indiana legislators to consider asking the Senate to declare his seat vacant. As southern states began to leave the Union, Bright opposed the use of force against them because he believed they would soon return. More...