Thursday, November 15, 2012

Congressman Luján Elected First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congresswoman elect Michelle Lujan Grisham elected Whip

Two Huge Cheers for New Mexico's Congressman Ben Ray Lujan elected First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by his colleagues! And Congresswoman elect Michelle Lujan-Grisham elected as Whip.

Brl sfrCongressman Luján issued the following press release from the CHC announcing the caucus’ new leadership. (Photo at right from Santa Fe Reporter)

Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX 20) released this statement following the election of Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX 15) as CHC Chairman for the 113th Congress, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM03) as First Vice Chair, Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA39) as Second Vice Chair and Congresswoman-elect Michelle Luján Grisham (NM01) as Whip.

Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX 20):  “It has been an honor to serve as CHC Chairman alongside Congressman Hinojosa and I’m certain that his extensive experience as a legislator and an advocate for Hispanic issues will greatly benefit the CHC of the 113th Congress.“Congressman Hinojosa’s passion for extending opportunities to Hispanic youth was demonstrated by his tireless efforts on the CHC’s Education Task Force and as First Vice Chair. I look forward to seeing how his abilities as a strong leader and advocate, combined with the largest delegation of Latinos to ever serve in Congress, will advance the issues most vital to our community.”

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX 15), Chair-elect: "I want to thank my colleagues for showing their support as I proudly take on the role of the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. For 36 years the CHC has focused on legislative priorities covering all areas that have a direct impact on the Hispanic or Latino community. We will continue to bring new ideas and new vigor to pave our way towards our great future in this country.
“In the 113th Congress we will have 30 Latinos in Congress. This is the largest Hispanic group in our nation's history to serve in Congress. The recent Presidential election proves that the Latino vote is a crucial voting bloc. No longer will our voices be silenced. No longer will we be placed in the back of the line.
“The challenges we face are arduous and no doubt we will suffer some set-backs during our climb, but we will not turn back. I along with my fellow CHC colleagues will join with President Obama as we work to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We will work together to not only allow DREAM Act students to earn a college degree, but to grant them a path to citizenship in the U.S.A., the country they already call home.
“As the new Chairman of the CHC, I will work to reorganize task forces to address high priority issues such as: our economy and creating jobs, addressing and improving the way home mortgages and micro loans are handled for our Latino communities and small businesses. On health care, we will address particular areas of the Affordable Care Act and make certain that our doctors and hospitals are reimbursed. In education we must protect the Pell Grant so that it does not drop below the current $5,550. We will also see that the Direct Federal College Loan Program continues to offer our children an opportunity to register and attend college.
“Again, I thank my colleagues for their faith in me and together we will continue to improve the quality of life for not only the Latino community but for all Americans."

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM03): “This is an important time for the Hispanic community across the country as we have seen our numbers and influence increase in all facets, from government to small businesses. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as First Vice Chair, and I look forward to working with them and my colleagues in the House to advocate for an agenda that helps Hispanics, and indeed all Americans, by growing our economy, spurring job creation, and investing in education.”

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (CA39): “It is an honor to have been selected by my colleagues to serve as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Second Vice-Chair. I look forward to working with the CHC to address the issues that matter most to Latinos. I am excited to work with the CHC to ensure we create jobs, grow our economy, and achieve comprehensive immigration reform. It is also with great pleasure that I welcome the new members of the CHC. Together we will fight to ensure that Latinos have a strong voice in Congress.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.

November 15, 2012 at 06:39 PM in Hispanic Issues, Michelle Lujan Grisham, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

General Petraeus General Betray Us Now

Remember the General Petraeus, General Betray Us MoveOn ad controversy?

From Wikipedia:
The MoveOn.org ad controversy began when the US anti-war liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org published a full-page ad in the NY Times on September 10, 2007 accusing General David H. Petraeus of "cooking the books for the White House". The ad also labeled him "General Betray Us". The organization created the ad in response to Petraeus' Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq. MoveOn hosted pages on its website about the ad and their reasons behind it from 2007 to June 23, 2010. On June 23, 2010, after President Obama nominated General Petraeus to be the new top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan (taking over the position from retiring General Stanley McChrystal), MoveOn erased these webpages and any reference to them from its website.

Democracy for New Mexico wrote about this back on Sept. 26, 2007. Barb wrote a pointed piece back then, and the piece received a few great comments, even by the now late PlacitasRoy. Roy passed away only a few weeks ago and his rebel voice is missed.

Fast forward to now

Current Cost of Iraq and Afghan Wars: $1,393,007,867,900.00
Current Cost of Iraq War: $808,617,213,890.00
Current Cost of Afghan War: $584,390,833,930.00

It is important to remember where our hard earned tax dollars are going as we approach the perverbial fiscal cliff. The National Priorities project is still a great Cost of War tracker of this obscene number. Our tax dollars keep on flooding out of this country like a fire hydrant turned on full blast, or the Hoover damn in overflow position.

We have written about this outrage before, almost one year ago DFNM had this post "Military Budget Fraud and Waste No One is Talking About" on the obscene amount of money flooding out of our country. How is this sustainable? And to make matters worse it appears the GAO issued a report on August 1, 2012 showing little enthusiasm by agencies to make changes to the rip-off happening with War Time Contracting. For really good maddening reading see the final report to Congress on the War Time Rip-off waste.

And now we find out that General P was getting his rocks off. While the thieves and robbers are ripping us off blind. If General PP did not Betray us back in September 2007, he most certainly has betrayed us now.

And just to think of the human life's lost. And there is a business as usual theme still continuing. Why do we have such a huge debt? Why are there no jobs? Just watch the Cost of War ticker and think how and when will this stop.

Our Country is in the need of leaders now! Not cover up, go along to get alongers. The war was no issue in the past election, shameful. NO one even tried to tie the cost of war to the lack of jobs in our own communities. What is the actual monetary cost of this war every week now? This information is unattainable to my knowledge and searching. We Americans are asleep, like serious amnesia, and denial. Is anyone listening or paying attention? Let's all hold our newly elected Congressional and Senatorial leaders accountable to answer these questions. Where is this money going?

November 14, 2012 at 03:19 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, NM Congressional Delegation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affordable Care Act Upheld by Supreme Court

The Health care reform act was challenged clear up to the US Supreme Court and the decision was rendered today. It is satisfying to know the highest court in the land upheld the constitutionality of this important legislation. The final deciding vote was cast by Chief Judge John Roberts, appointed by Bush 43.

This will not stop the republicans at all, in fact it will embolden them. As Pearce says at the end of these statements, "The House has scheduled a vote on the full repeal of ObamaCare during the week of July 9."

What a contrast of message from the R's to the D's about good news for the people of this Country.

Let's contribute to the State races for the NM House of Representatives. You know the SusanaPac is rolling in the dough today with this news. Please start with a contribution to my race for NM House District 30. Please go to this ActBlue link here, thank you in advance.

Below are the statements from all of NM Congressional leaders:

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s CD-3 released the following statement today on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

“For too long, families and small businesses in New Mexico have seen their health care costs skyrocket as they continue to pay more and receive less. The ranks of the uninsured grew while insurance companies continued to deny or drop coverage for those who needed it most. That is why President Obama and Democrats in Congress took action to pass health insurance reform that ends the insurance companies’ worst abuses, expands coverage, and takes steps to bring down costs for hard-working New Mexicans.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the law is an important victory for the people of New Mexico. Young adults will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance plan, those with pre-existing conditions will be assured that they will have health insurance, and seniors will continue to pay less for prescription drugs and receive free preventive care.

“It is now abundantly clear that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and that the people of New Mexico will continue to benefit from its many important provisions.”

Congressman Martin Heinrich (CD-1) Statement On Supreme Court Decision Upholding Health Care Reform 

U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich released the following statement today after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional:

“The Supreme Court has spoken, declaring the Affordable Care Act constitutional. This decision means New Mexicans will continue to benefit from expanded access to quality, affordable health care.

“Now it’s time to move on to the major economic problems facing our country. Our focus needs to be on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track. The finger-pointing needs to end and Washington needs to get its priorities straight by cutting waste and ending the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and companies that outsource jobs, so we can focus on job creation and strengthening Social Security and Medicare."

Michelle Lujan Grisham Candidate for CD-1: Health Care Debate Must Shift to Controlling Costs

Congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has spent her career as an advocate for quality health care, said the Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for the thousands of New Mexico families that deserve access to quality, affordable health care.

“This is a victory for New Mexico families because insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with asthma, cancer or heart disease, or force women to pay more for health care,” Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “This is a good first step toward reforming our broken health care system.

“However, there is still work to be done. When I get to Congress I will work to require health insurance companies to put patients before profits. We must control health care costs, improve quality and train more health care workers.”

Senator Udall Statement on Supreme Court’s Health Care Ruling Following the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

"When Congress and President Obama first took up this issue, we knew it wouldn't be easy. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is the best possible outcome for the American people. Today, quality, affordable health care is a major step closer to becoming a reality for millions of Americans who live one accident or diagnosis away from losing everything. For these families, health care is an economic matter with the very real consequences of life, death and bankruptcy. As a nation, and across New Mexico, we cannot afford to go back to just a short time ago when insurance coverage for all was further from reach, when children with cancer could be denied coverage, and when unemployed, recent college graduates would be kicked off their parents' insurance by age 22.

"We can still improve upon the law we've put into place, but today, New Mexico has already received more than $200 million in grants and loans to establish an insurance exchange, strengthen community health centers, train new health professionals and so much more. Since passing the law, more than 26,000 young adults under 26-years-old in our state have been allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plans. Almost 20,000 New Mexico seniors on Medicare received a rebate to help cover prescription costs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. And 285,000 New Mexicans with private health insurance no longer have to pay a deductible or copayment for preventive care like physicals, cancer screenings and vaccinations. More is yet to come.

"Today's decision marks another turning point in our country's approach to health care equality. Now’s the time to put aside partisanship and work together to make our health care policy even stronger."

Republican NMCD-2 Rep. Steve Pearce issued the following statement:

Supreme Court Decision Allows for New Obamacare Tax on New Mexico Families

“I have long believed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2011 was an unconstitutional overreach by the President. ObamaCare is a violation of our individual rights and an expansion of federal government power our nation’s founders would have found unfathomable.

“The Supreme Court, which has the responsibility of interpreting the law, found this overreach acceptable as a tax. While I do not agree, I respect its authority to make this interpretation.

“Since day one, the Obama Administration has denied that his law was a tax on the American people. Yet, the Obama Administration will claim victory, when all this law does is assess a greater financial burden on hardworking American families and small business owners.

“ObamaCare puts government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors, hurts small businesses and creates trillions in new government spending that will add a huge new weight to our already overloaded deficit.

“We need to get back to work on repealing this ‘tax’ and reforming our healthcare system. These reforms must be focused on protecting patient access to the care they need from the doctor they choose.”

The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the law is constitutional. The House has scheduled a vote on the full repeal of ObamaCare during the week of July 9.

June 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM in 2012 Legislature Races, Healthcare, Michelle Lujan Grisham, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Tom Udall, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Urban Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque's South Valley Gets the Go-Ahead

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U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich with students from Mountain View Elementary, in attendance at the announcement of what will become first national wildlife refuge in the Southwest. Mountain View Elementary is just down the road from the property.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced that a proposed 570-acre national wildlife refuge on a former dairy farm just a few miles south of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area has been approved.  As proposed, the site will serve as an urban oasis for both wildlife and people. Very exciting, for everyone involved. Establishment of a new Albuquerque-based national wildlife refuge is a win-win situation for people and wildlife, for the economy and open space conservation, for visitors and residents alike.

“With the support of Bernalillo County, the Trust for Public Land, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, and many partners, New Mexico will gain its first urban national wildlife refuge,” Salazar said. “Once complete, this refuge, which is within a half hour drive of nearly half of New Mexico’s population, will be a place for people to connect with and learn about the natural world and will provide valuable habitat for wildlife, including the endangered the southwestern willow flycatcher.”

Joined by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Martin Heinrich, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Salazar said a refuge in this location would fulfill the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to work with community partners to establish a 21st century conservation ethic and reconnect people -- especially young people -- to the natural world.

Economic Growth and Jobs
An urban refuge will also help generate economic growth and support jobs by attracting visitors, Salazar said. Recreation in refuges, national parks and other public lands alone led to nearly $55 billion in economic contribution and 440,000 jobs in 2009. National wildlife refuges alone currently support an estimated 35,234 jobs.

“Establishment of a refuge not only will improve the quality of life of the citizens of Albuquerque but also help create new jobs by attracting visitors,” Salazar said. “One in twenty U.S. jobs are in the recreation economy –- more than there are doctors, lawyers, or teachers -- and places like this new refuge could help support more than 3 million new jobs across the nation in the next decade.”

A Unique Opportunity for Urban Open Space
“At 570 acres, this former dairy is one of the largest remaining farms in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and is the largest agricultural property within the Albuquerque metro region. There are very few opportunities like this one that allow us protect open space in highly urban areas,” said Senator Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I’d like to thank Secretary Salazar for coming to New Mexico today to make this exciting announcement, and I’d like to thank the many individuals and local officials whose involvement made this urban wildlife refuge a reality.”

“In America, and especially in states like New Mexico, we value something uniquely American: our wildlife and public lands,” said Congressman Heinrich. “But too often today, our youth get more screen time than outdoor time. For kids in the Albuquerque area, Price’s Dairy can help change that. Our community has come together in support of this project, recognizing the tremendous value in investing in the health and education of our kids, with the added benefit of driving economic development and supporting nearby small businesses.”

Working Together for Common Good
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bernalillo County have long explored the possibility of establishing an urban refuge on the former Price’s Dairy Farm. After completing the necessary studies and planning documents, the service is now authorized to acquire land and establish the refuge. 

By policy, the Fish and Wildlife Service acquires lands for refuges only from willing sellers. Condemnation is not used. The current owners of the 570-acre site are interested in selling the land.  The Bernalillo County Commission has already set aside $5 million to assist with land acquisition.

“Years from now people will say how glad they are that we had enough foresight, determination and love that we preserved this place forever, and for them,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz.

The Service intends to work with its partners to establish environmental education programs at the refuge and provide demonstration areas for sustainable agriculture. Once fully restored, visitors to the Refuge will likely be able to see waterfowl, small mammals, and neotropical migrant birds, including the flycatcher.

Additional funding for purchase of the land will likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress established the fund in 1964 to use revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to support the conservation of America's lands and waters.

 "Our goal is to protect land for people and there is no better example of that then making sure that this special place is protected for future generations,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, a key partner in the establishment of the refuge. “This announcement has the support of local neighbors and is important to the people who live nearby, particularly the children of the area. This was a true team effort, and it would not have been possible without the leadership of Secretary Salazar and the New Mexico congressional delegation, and the support of the landowner."

Only a few of the nation’s more than 550 National Wildlife Refuges are in urban areas. Urban refuges offer unique environmental education and recreation opportunities in populous area while promoting the mission of the refuge system to protect wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

October 10, 2011 at 07:22 AM in Bernalillo County, Environment, Land Issues, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jobs v. Cuts: Dr. Right Debates Dr. Wrong

This debate between economist Robert "Dr. Right" Reich and his alter ego, Dr. Wrong, is funny. But it also points out, simply and effectively, what's wrong with Washington's current obsession with the federal deficit at the same time job creation is pushed to the sidelines as an issue.

In his latest post, Reich also discusses Obama's announced decision to switch to the jobs issue after his vacation in Martha's Vineyard. The administration says the president will give a major speech on the topic right after Labor Day.

As Reich notes, all we've heard so far about Obama's proposals indicates he means to propose provisions that are small-potatoes compared with what we really need to create large numbers of jobs -- "extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits (good, but small potatoes), ratifying the Columbia and South Korea free trade agreements (not necessarily a job-creating move), and creating an infrastructure bank ... which might be helpful depending on its size."

Reich points out the obvious -- that the Republicans will reject any jobs proposal, regardless of how modest it is, so he encourages Obama to go for the fences in an effort to frame the jobs issue on Democratic grounds and shame the Republicans for standing for nothing but paralysis on the jobs issue. "Better they reject one that could make a real difference than one that’s pitifully small and symbolic," Reich writes. "If Republicans reject it, Obama can build his 2012 campaign around that fight. Maybe he’ll even call Republicans on their big lie that smaller government leads to more jobs."

Reich also offers 10 proposals that he thinks should be included in a "bold" jobs initiative:

1. Exempt first $20K of income from payroll taxes for two years. Make up shortfall by raising ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes.

2. Recreate the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps to put long-term unemployed directly to work.

3. Create an infrastructure bank authorized to borrow $300 billion a year to repair and upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, school buildings, and water and sewer systems.

4. Amend bankruptcy laws to allow distressed homeowners to declare bankruptcy on their primary residence, so they can reorganize their mortgage loans.

5. Allow distressed homeowners to sell a portion of their mortgages to the FHA, which would take a proportionate share of any upside gains when the homes are sold.

6. Provide tax incentive to employers who create net new jobs ($2,500 deduction for every net new job created).

7. Make low-interest loans to cash-starved states and cities, so they don’t have to lay off teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and reduce other critical public services.

8. Provide partial unemployment benefits to people who have lost part-time jobs.

9. Enlarge and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit – a wage subsidy for low-wage work.

10. Impose a “severance fee” on any large business that lays off an American worker and outsources the job abroad.

If you agree, I urge you to contact the White House as well as your Senator and Congressman to urge them to support a bold plan like the one outlined above. (Click here and enter your zip code on the right.) If we don't do it, who will?

August 18, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Economy, Populism, Jobs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rep. Raul Grijalva: I Will Not Support the Emerging Debt Deal! (Dem NM Delegation and Candidates Mute Except for Eric Griego)

There's at least one real Democrat left in the House -- the courageous and proudly liberal Raul Grijalva. I personally will not vote for any Democrat who votes for the "deal" that gives away the store on every core Dem value and extracts nothing of value in return. The "deal" contains provisions that are incredibly anti-working and middle class, anti-everything we believe in. Yet Obama and others are painting it as a victory for "compromise" despite the horrific content of the "compromise."

Obama has made a habit of putting process -- which he and his handlers think makes him look like a sensible, balanced centrist -- over content. Anyone even scanning the content that's emerging on this deal can clearly see that it will create an expanding nightmare for ordinary Americans for decades to come. It is profoundly anti-Democratic, and even anti-democratic with its "Super Congress" provisions and horrendous triggers. And yet I predict almost all of our Dem elected officials and candidates will tout it as a huge victory. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our elected Dems and candidates should be pushing the President relentlessly to raise the debt ceiling using the 14th amendment and nothing else. I haven't heard a peep on that score out of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Sen. Jeff Bingman, Sen. Tom Udall, Senate candidate Hector Balderas or NM-01 candidate Marty Chavez. CD-1 candidate Eric Griego has been the only one pushing for the 14th amendment way out of this horror story. Bravo on that score.

Rep. Grijalva's powerful statement, released today:

I Will Not Support the Emerging Debt Deal

When a crisis faces our nation, and decisions have to be made, we look to our elected officials to provide the guidance and direction that will help us persevere. In the face of this manufactured debt ceiling crisis, many Members of Congress have failed to lead and are willing to substantially weaken many of the programs that make our nation great.

I will not support the emerging debt deal

I will have no part of a deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to appease the farthest reaches of the right wing of the Republican Party. It is unconscionable to put these programs on the chopping block and ignore the voices and beliefs of the millions of Americans who trust us to lead while continuing to give handouts to the ultra wealthy and the largest corporations. There is no human decency in that.

Rather than fly the standard of the working Americans who voted them into office, some Members of Congress are content to raise the white flag and call it “bipartisanship” or a “grand bargain”. Many elected officials yearn to be leaders, but this debt deal shows that too many of them settle for being politicians.

We Progressives have stood strong against the GOP’s shameless political maneuverings and disastrous ideas. When the GOP introduced the Ryan Plan to cut taxes for the rich and kill Medicare while adding $6 trillion in new debt over the next decade, we stood strong against their irrational and irresponsible plans. We offered another path and introduced the People’s Budget, a straightforward and realistic plan to address our nation’s short- and long-term economic needs without placing the burden on the backs of working Americans. It would balance the budget by 2021, protect the social safety net, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and importantly, put Americans back to work.

We have made our position clear for months: any deal must balance cuts and revenue. It is morally unjust to ask those Americans who are hurting the most in this recession to shoulder the burden of the GOP’s irresponsible fiscal policies. Today, Progressives and everyone we represent were thrown under the bus. Rather than upholding the commitments made to our seniors and working families, this deal allows the wealthy and big corporations to keep their expensive federal handouts while cutting aid to the families who need it most.

My Progressive colleagues and I pressed Democratic leadership and the Obama administration to join us in opposing cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. To accept this deal is to weaken the credibility of the Democratic Party. If we do not stand up for working Americans now, who will be their voice? If we do not stand up for working Americans now, will they ever trust us to again?

I reject this deal, and the American people reject this deal. The only thing we have left to do is repair the damage the GOP has done to our nation as soon as possible.

July 31, 2011 at 06:48 PM in Children and Families, Corporatism, Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, Eric Griego, Hector Balderas, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Right Wing, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Senior Citizens, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Latino Sustainability Institute: Cuts to Land and Water Conservation Fund Disastrous for Preserving New Mexico's Land and Water Heritage

The following is a statement from Arturo Sandoval, Executive Director of the New Mexico-based Latino Sustainability Institute, on the steep cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives Interior-Environment Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012:

“Some of the leaders in the House of Representatives are putting politics and their anti-conservation agenda ahead of the best interests of the people of New Mexico. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has not only preserved thousands of acres of public lands for recreation, it has also funded the protection of vital watersheds in New Mexico, including the Rio Grande and Chama Wild and Scenic Rivers as well as lands on all five of the National Forests located in New Mexico.

“Protecting vital water resources and preserving New Mexico's cultural heritage go hand in hand. By cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we are threatening that heritage and the legacy of generations of Northern New Mexicans who acted as good stewards of these precious and rare natural resources.”

“The Latino Sustainability Institute greatly appreciates the strong advocacy of Representatives Heinrich and Lujan as well as Senators Bingaman and Udall for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We urge Congressman Pearce to also work to ensure the Land and Water Conservation Fund is well funded so that we may pass on to future New Mexicans a land and water legacy that we can be proud of.”

Here is some background information and a one-pager (pdf) on what the Land and Water Conservation Fund means to New Mexico:

  • The proposed level of funding for the LWCF proposed in House FY2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill is $65.8 million, nearly 80 percent below the enacted level of $301 million for FY2011.
  • This week on the House floor, amendments passed by voice vote added an additional $25 million to LWCF for FY2012, bringing the total to $90.8 million, still 70 percent below 2011 levels and 90 percent below the authorized level for LWCF.
  • The LWCF is not paid for by tax dollars. Rather, it is funded by fees generated from off-shore drilling. So cutting the fund only hurts efforts to preserve wild lands and build local parks, pools and recreation spaces.
  • The LWCF represent a promise made to the American people in 1964. This Congress should not betray this long-standing commitment.
  • A telephone poll of 800 likely voters conducted during the week of July 10, 2011, found that an overwhelming majority -- 88% -- of voters support continuing to deposit fees from offshore oil and gas drilling into the LWCF. In 2009, 81% of voters supported continued LWCF funding.
  • Voters from all major segments of the electorate support continued funding for LWCF, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of independents, and 83% of Republicans, as well as 95% of Latinos, 88% of whites, and 85% of African Americans.
  • The poll was undertaken jointly by two research firms, one Republican (Public Opinion Strategies) and one Democratic (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates). The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.46%.

July 30, 2011 at 10:14 AM in Economy, Populism, Environment, Land Issues, NM Congressional Delegation, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Prosperity Works Joins National Effort to Oppose Federal Budget Cuts

As Congress works to meet the April 8 deadline for a final budget deal for the fiscal year 2011, Prosperity Works will join direct service providers and advocates from around the country in Washington, DC to warn Congress about the impact of cuts that threaten economic security for families and elders. The groups will meet with Representatives Heinrich, Lujan and Pierce as part of a three-day organizing meeting hosted by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) -- a national organization that works to achieve economic independence for families.  

During the meeting, groups will also discuss a new report and measure for family economic security. The national Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST), to be released during the meeting, calculates the monthly income necessary for families to cover their basic expenses, including child care, housing, health care, and transportation, and prepare for the future, including saving for emergencies, home ownership, education and retirement. The report will provide new details on the role public programs for housing, child care and health care play in helping families make ends meet.  

“The House budget will hurt job growth and weaken the already tenuous ability of thousands of New Mexican families and seniors to make ends meet,” said Ona Porter, President and CEO of Prosperity Works. “Cutting off the very programs that are helping families and seniors stay afloat is a short-sighted move that will stall our economic recovery as well as jeopardize the well being of families .

Leading economists are projecting a loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide if the most recent House spending bill for fiscal year 2011 (HR1) is enacted. The bill includes $61 billion in cuts, including billions of dollars in cuts to job training, education, elder assistance programs, such as:

  • $3.8 billion in cuts to Workforce Investment Act training programs, which have served 8 million people and place more than half of them in jobs in the past year;

  • Cuts to Head Start, special education (IDEA) and schools in low-income communities, which derail education programs and eliminate an estimated 72,000 jobs; 

  • 44 percent cut to the Community Services Block Grant program, which provides nutrition, employment, health and other necessary services to over 20 million low-income people, including 5 million children, 2.3 million seniors and 1.7 million people with disabilities through 1,065 community action agencies nationwide;

  • Cuts to Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which millions of families depend on to stay warm in winter;

  • 67 percent cut to the Section 202 senior housing program, which already has a two-year waiting list for seniors in need of affordable housing.  

“Job training programs are helping get millions of Americans back to work, and housing, heating and food assistance programs are helping support the millions more who have not been able to find a new jobs,” said Ona Porter. “We need Congress to focus on a budget solution that helps grow, not undercut the middle class.”

March 31, 2011 at 03:38 PM in Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Education, Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, NM Congressional Delegation, Senior Citizens, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

2/10: NM Congressional Delegation/Fed Agencies to Host Espanola Public Forum on Post-Storm Aid

The New Mexico congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency will host a public forum this week in Española that will bring together federal agencies and nonprofits to discuss assistance available to eligible New Mexicans whose homes and businesses were affected by last week’s storm.

The public forum will take place from 10 AM-Noon on Thursday, February 10, at Mission Museum, 1 Calle de los Españoles, Española. A variety of federal agencies and New Mexico nonprofits have been invited, including:

  • USDA-Rural Development
  • USDA-Farm Services Agency
  • U.S. Housing and Urban Development
  • U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Housing Assistance Council

Please pass this info on to folks in need and urge them to do the same.

February 8, 2011 at 06:50 PM in Energy, Events, NM Congressional Delegation, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Former Lt. Dan Choi Gets His West Point Ring Back from Sen. Harry Reid

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Lt. Dan Choi gets West Point ring back from Sen. Reid today

One of the names President Obama didn't mention at today's historic signing of the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal bill was that of former Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the service when he publicly revealed he was gay on the Rachel Maddow Show in March of 2009. Lt. Choi was instrumental in getting the powers to be to act on the repeal, making the political very personal and applying unrelenting pressure on the president and the Congress to do it now, not later. With his brave, passionate, articulate and demanding presence, he became one of the very public faces of DADT discrimination, inspiring others to reveal themselves as gay or lesbians soldiers and vets in the public eye. Of course his work was a part of an effort by hundreds of thousands of activists -- like those featured at a recent " Healing the Damages" DADT panel discussion in Albuquerque -- but I think Choi deserves some special recognition.

When Choi felt the movement for DADT repeal was double crossed by the long-running inaction of Obama and Congress, he said so in no uncertain terms. He frequently appeared on TV, traveled around the country pushing for change, helped rally others punished by a policy that requires gay and lesbian service members to lie about who they are and even chained himself to the White House gates with other gay and lesbian service members several times, getting arrested in the process. Just recently, after the DADT repeal was defeated in the Senate as part of the defense spending bill obstructed by Republicans, Choi was hospitalized briefly for a "mental breakdown" at a VA Hospital -- worn down, agitated and depressed by the frustrating process of trying to help right a long-standing wrong by putting his own career and even his health and life on the line.

Back in July, at the Netroots Nation convention, Choi gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his West Point graduation ring and his discharge papers, pushing Reid to follow through on his pledge to repeal DADT. He said he'd take back his ring and papers if and when Reid successfully secured the repeal.

Time has come today. Hours after President Obama signed the DADT repeal, Sen. Reid returned the ring to Lt. Choi in his Senate office (see photo at top). Well done! The video above shows Sen. Reid getting Choi's ring this summer, and returning it to Choi today, mission accomplished. The circle is closed.

Moving on to Full Equality
Meanwhile, Choi had this to say about the bill's passage, and the still unfinished business of LGBT citizens being granted their full legal rights in the US -- including full marriage equality -- just like everybody else. It's an incredible accomplishment to get DADT repealed, and that victory will help immensely in the continuing movement to gain full legal rights under civil law for LGBT citizens and couples. However, until there is true marriage equality at the federal level and in every state, we will still be second class citizens in the eyes of the law. 

On that point, President Obama gave a lot of couples -- like Mary Ellen and I -- a glimmer of hope that he will be doing more to get it done, despite the challenges of a Republican-dominated House for the next two years. In an interview yesterday with The Advocate, President Obama talked about the DADT repeal and other topics including the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):

On the question of marriage equality, the president said his “attitudes are evolving.”

“Like a lot of people, I'm wrestling with this,” he said. "I've wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”

The president also signaled that he and his lawyers are reviewing “a range of options” when it comes to the administration’s responsibility to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, especially since repealing it over the next two years will be a nonstarter with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. 

“I have a whole bunch of really smart lawyers who are looking at a whole range of options. My preference wherever possible is to get things done legislatively,” Obama said, drawing a comparison with repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” 

“That may not be possible in DOMA’s case,” he added. “That’s something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several months.”

More Thank Yous
There are, of course, many people to thank for our victory today -- including New Mexico's Senators and House members, ALL of whom supported the repeal. However, I wanted to give a shout out to one legislator in particular -- Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA). A straight-as-an-arrow Iraq War veteran, Rep. Murphy -- who represents a fairly conservative blue-collar district -- was a tireless and very public supporter of DADT repeal in the Congress, and sponsored the final DADT repeal bill.

Unfortunately, Rep. Murphy was defeated in this year's midterm election, with his support for the repeal being one of the factors that figured into his loss. I'm especially proud of Rep. Murphy and very appreciative of his doing what is right, even though it may well have helped to cost him his job. More of this, please, in Congress and the White House.

Murphy
Rep. Patrick Murphy hugs former USMC Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who was discharged under DADA, at today's signing ceremony

As Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said when the stand-alone bill was signed in the House yesterday:

"We are very, very proud of a person who served our country on the battlefield and served our country in the Congress, the author of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the House, [Rep.] Patrick Murphy [(D-Pa.)]."

The mention was the first of three standing ovations for the lawmaker, who led the charge for repeal in the House.

Consider this another standing O for the departing Rep. Patrick Murphy -- and for everyone who worked tirelessly for this long sought repeal.

December 22, 2010 at 06:03 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 06, 2010

(Updated) Will U.S. House Dems Stop Obama's Backroom Deal on Taxes?

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Update: According to the latest leak on the tax cut "deal," Obama has agreed to give up the “Making Work Pay” tax credit that was the central tax break for middle and low-income Americans in last year’s economic stimulus bill. The credit provided a tax break of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. But Republicans opposed the idea so it would be replaced with a one-year reduction in payroll taxes for workers. Negotiators were also close to an agreement to restore the federal estate tax, which lapsed at the start of this year, with an exemption of up to $5 million per individual, and a maximum rate of 35 percent.
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On Saturday, Senate Dems tried to muster the 60 votes needed to get past a GOP filibuster to end debate on two bills that included the extension of tax cuts for the middle class while letting them expire for America's top earners. They failed, and got little or no support from President Obama in trying to build public pressure to force Republicans to relent on their single-minded pursuit of protecting our most well off earners from paying taxes at the rate they did during the Clinton years.

The cloture vote on the first bill, to permanently preserve the cuts for earnings less than $200,000 per individual and $250,000 per couple -- or 98% of Americans -- failed by a margin of 53 to 36. Not one Republican voted for cloture. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall both voted to end the filibuster.  Dem Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jim Webb (D-VA) and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman [CT] voted no. This bill also would have extended unemployment benefits for one year, scaled back the alternative minimum tax for two years and extended dozens of other tax provisions from the stimulus bill and elsewhere.

On the second bill, to permanently preserve the cuts for earnings less than $1 million per couple -- extending the tax cuts for all of income for more than 99% of Americans -- the vote was 53 to 37 for cloture. This bill also included the additional measures in the first bill. Again, not a single Republican voted yes, and Senators Bingaman and Udall voted for cloture. Dem Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) voted no, saying they objected because they thought the $1 million limit was too high.

Obama Urges Surrender
In response, Obama issued his usual bland statement: “I am very disappointed that the Senate did not pass legislation that had already passed the House of Representatives to make middle class tax cuts permanent. I continue to believe it makes no sense to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans." Nobody expected anything different from the president, as he had already put everyone on notice that his closed-door effort for a "compromise," led by Tim Geithner, was his preferred way to deal with the issue.

Today, during an appearance in Winston-Salem NC, Obama urged that Dems find "consensus," and mentioned that Rs and Ds in Congress were still "working through some differences." He failed to provide any tough talk about the utterly unacceptable behavior of Rs who have stated they will bring Congress to a halt unless the tax cuts for the wealthy are continued. "Mr. Surrenderer" instead seemed to advocate a total capitulation to GOP blackmail with nary a whimper in protest.

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The latest word is that Geithner's deal would propose that all the Bush tax cuts be extended for two years, and that extended unemployment benefits be offered for another year. The compromise would have to gain approval in both the Senate and the House. Because all tax bills must originate in the House, the Senate would have to amend the recently passed House bill (by a margin of 234-188) that extends only the tax cuts for income earned by couples under $250,000, and then the House would get to vote on that.

Will House Dems Support the Deal?
The question becomes, will progressives in the House reject the bill and risk having taxes rise for the middle class, at least for now? VP Joe Biden reportedly met with Dem House leaders at the White House on Saturday evening, and President Obama summoned Dem leaders to the White House today to discuss the parameters of a compromise that would be acceptable to the Dem majorities in the House and Senate. With no backing from Obama for calling the GOP's bluff on this, it might be difficult for House Dems to stand against the compromise even though the Dem base is incredibly up at arms about Obama's sheepish cave-in to the Republicans.

Cave-In Would Set Dangerous Precedent
Today, Paul Krugman urged Dems to refuse the deal:

What should Democrats do? The answer is that they should just say no. If G.O.P. intransigence means that taxes rise at the end of this month, so be it.

Think about the logic of the situation. Right now, the Republicans see themselves as successful blackmailers, holding a clear upper hand. President Obama, they believe, wouldn’t dare preside over a broad tax increase while the economy is depressed. And they therefore believe that he will give in to their demands.

But while raising taxes when unemployment is high is a bad thing, there are worse things. And a cold, hard look at the consequences of giving in to the G.O.P. now suggests that saying no, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, is the lesser of two evils.

Krugman believes that capitulation now would set up a scenario next year, when there are more R Senators and they control the House, for all the Bush tax cuts to become permanent. He explains how we couldn't afford such folly unless deep and massive cuts are made in Medicare and other vital programs -- a virtual dismantling of just about everything except military spending. 

... if Democrats give in to the blackmailers now, they’ll just face more demands in the future. As long as Republicans believe that Mr. Obama will do anything to avoid short-term pain, they’ll have every incentive to keep taking hostages. If the president will endanger America’s fiscal future to avoid a tax increase, what will he give to avoid a government shutdown?

So Mr. Obama should draw a line in the sand, right here, right now. If Republicans hold out, and taxes go up, he should tell the nation the truth, and denounce the blackmail attempt for what it is.

Yes, letting taxes go up would be politically risky. But giving in would be risky, too — especially for a president whom voters are starting to write off as a man too timid to take a stand. Now is the time for him to prove them wrong.

Potential Consequences for Dems
I wish I could believe that Obama or a majority of Dems in the House would stand up against the blackmail but, so far, all we've heard publicly are calls to give in from the party's leaders. If the powers that be within the Dem Party want to see their traditional base, young voters and many independents walk away from supporting them in the 2012 election, or support someone willing to fight for America's working and middle classes in a primary or general election challenge to Obama, they should definitely keep pushing for more acquiescence to GOP demands.

If Dem members of Congress aren't prepared to stand up for the people -- even if it takes their standing up against a Dem president -- I hope they, too, are prepared to take the backlash going forward. We need a lot more tough talk from Dems, backed by voting against the President's wishes, if necessary:

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said,

Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It's almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said,

I'm trying to figure out how anyone can keep a straight face and say they are for deficit reduction when they insist on a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, completely unpaid for. If they think it is OK to raise taxes for the embattled middle class because they are going to pout if we don't give more money to millionaires, it really is time for the people of America to take up pitchforks.

December 6, 2010 at 03:31 PM in Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Right Wing, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Victory in House on Middle Class Tax Cuts Already Being Undermined by Obama

The US House voted to extend only the Bush middle class tax cuts by a margin of 234-188, with three Republicans voting for the measure (John Duncan-TN, Walter Jones-NC, Ron Paul-TX), 20 so-called Democrats voting in tandem with the supporters of millionaires and billionaires (see below) and 12 not voting at all. All three of New Mexico's congressmen -- Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) -- voted yes. We salute you!

In essence, those voting no on the bill support raising taxes on 95% of Americans at a time when so many ordinary Americans are suffering in an economic climate that continues to favor Wall Street, the investor class, corporate executives and almost nobody else. If I were the President, I'd be on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers as much as humanly possible, reading off the names of Republicans who voted to raise taxes on the middle class and shaming GOP Senators who are planning to do the same or outright stymie any chance for a vote.

There will be no vote on the House side to extend the Bush tax cuts for the top income bracket. Well done. Remember, pundits galore were predicting that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would never be able to get a stand-alone bill to continue middle class tax cuts passed. They're probably crying into their Blackberry keypads right now.

White House Signals Capitulation
Unfortunately, however, the first message out of the White House was that they have already thrown in the towel on using the President's bully pulpit to get the American people motivated and active in pushing the Republicans into passing the bill on the Senate side. Instead, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued the statement below, indicating to the world that Obama and the Dems won't dare make a fuss in the Senate. At the very least, you'd think Obama would be champing at the bit to force Republicans to stand up to an onslaught of deserved criticism from Dems, and from Americans stirred by strong rhetoric of the kind that has been so lacking from the White House during perilous economic times. Nope:

The President continues to believe that extending middle class tax cuts is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now and he applauds the House for passing a permanent extension.  But, because Republicans have made it clear that they won’t pass a middle class extension without also extending tax cuts for the wealthy, the President has asked Director Lew and Secretary Geithner to work with Congress to find a way forward. Those discussions started just yesterday and are continuing this afternoon.  The talks are ongoing and productive, but any reports that we are near a deal in the tax cuts negotiations are inaccurate and premature.

As Jed Lewiston said in a Daily Kos diary, where he deemed Gibbs' statement a "buzzkill" (I concur):

Gibbs might as well have just said it in clearer language: "Hostage-taking works. And we can't do anything about it. Sorry for all the raised expectations."

Senate Plans
On a somewhat brighter note, TPMDC is reporting that a Democratic Senate aide indicated that Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the House bill just passed, as well as on a second package to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a new, $1 million tax bracket. According to TPMDC:

The move is a sign of the leadership's frustration -- though both packages will likely be filibustered by Republicans, Dems are loath to simply wait for negotiations with Republicans and the White House to end on terms they suspect will be much more favorable to the GOP than to their own party.

Pathetic, isn't it? Even our leaders in the Senate are more ready to fight for what's right than our President, who seems content to stand in the background, ignore the valuable tool of the bully pulpit and give over power to -- of all people -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner. Geitner, budget director Jack Lew and a "bipartisan" group of hand-picked lawmakers have been tapped by Obama to "negotiate" to find "common ground" on the matter of preserving tax cuts for those who have gotten even richer than before thanks to Bush administration policies. The others are Rep. David Camp (R-MI), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). I guess Obama believes this bunch should get to make the deal and to hell with the rest of our members of Congress. Not a progressive among them.

Democrats (I use the term loosely) who voted no on today's bill. I presume they believe that taxes on working people need to be hiked:

Baird (D-WA)
Boren (D-OK)
Davis (D-AL)
Dahlkemper (D-PA)
Doggett (D-TX)
Herseth Sandlin (D-SD)
Klein (D-FL)
Matheson (D-UT)
McIntyre (D-NC)
McMahon (D-NY)
McNerney (D-CA)
Minnick (D-ID)
Moore (D-WI)
Moran (D-VA)
Peterson (D-MN)
Pomeroy (D-ND)
Scott (D-VA)
Taylor (D-MS)
Thompson (D-CA)
Visclosky (D-IN)

December 2, 2010 at 04:36 PM in Economy, Populism, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Right Wing, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (6)