McClatchy Papers: Senators DeMint, Graham divided on Obama’s tax deal

From James Rosen of the McClatchy Newspaper group of papers (including Columbia’s The State)

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint once against canceled each others’ votes on major legislation Wednesday as Graham backed but DeMint opposed a compromise two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Incidentally, I don’t buy the logic that Graham and DeMint canceled each other out.  Both votes were counted. It’s not like South Carolinians could ever be completely unified on any issue.  Both politicians represent aspects of the state.   Rosen’s chosen a curious kind of either/or argument for his intro.   But anyway…

Graham said the deal between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders isn’t perfect – but that it achieves the critical need to prevent tax hikes on some Americans.

Only four other Republican senators joined DeMint in voting against the tax legislation, while Graham was among 37 GOP senators who voted for it.

Graham praised the Senate’s 81-19 vote to pass the tax bill as an early payoff from the Republican rout in the Nov. 2 elections.

“The Obama administration agreeing to extend the tax cuts for all Americans is one of the first dividends from the election of more Republicans to the House and Senate,” the Seneca Republican said

“Overall, I think the agreement is a good one for the American people,” Graham said. “No agreement is ever perfect. There are, of course, areas I would have liked to see improved. But overall it is worth supporting as it will give certainty to those concerned about what a tax increase would mean to their businesses and family budgets.”

DeMint, whose amendment to make the tax cuts permanent was rejected before the vote on the broader bill, said the package will increase the deficit too much as it trades more federal spending for extended tax cuts.

“I’m concerned the bill currently under consideration does not permanently extend tax rates – and thus will have a marginal, if any, benefit to our economy,” DeMint said on the Senate floor. “Temporary rates make for a temporary uncertain economy.”

The legislation extends all Bush-era tax rates, including those on the very wealthy, for two years; they are due to expire Dec. 31.

[…]

We’re not in favor of reducing revenue, especially when demands on unemployment and healthcare assistance are growing.   Regardless of what you think of the President’s deal to extend the tax cuts, it does seem like he’s found common ground with the GOP, at least for the moment.  DeMint and the three other senators who voted against the tax cuts are speaking from a position of eliminating taxes first, then worrying about government services.  That is a position that the other more political GOP senators probably would endorse in a stump speech, even if they would bow to the reality of funding the government.

But let’s examine the logic behind DeMint’s statement that only “permanently extend[ed]” would benefit the economy due to the certainty of the benefit.   A look at the history of the current economic depression refutes DeMint.   The Bush tax cuts were introduced in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 then deepened and extended in the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

The tax cuts were in no way intended to be permanent, since the 2010 expiration date was part of Bush’s compromise to peel off right-wing Democratic approval.

DeMint’s contention that the impermanency of the nine year old tax cut led to the downturn in the economy is ridiculous. After all, the tax cuts precede the economic meltdown by five to seven years.   DeMint wants us to believe that the a “permanent” reduction in the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans would have so benefited the economy that we would have avoided the the explosive housing bubble and Wall Street’s frenzy of speculation on securitized mortgages.

There is evidence to suggest that by reducing the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans, that the Bush (now Bush-Obama) tax cuts fed the housing and securities bubble by freeing cash for speculative investment.  Mark Thoma notes, as part of a longer article on the negative impact of the cuts:

Even the part of the tax cuts used for investment purposes may not result in enhanced long-run growth. Suppose, for example, that the money is invested in housing to take advantage of rising prices, but people are unaware that the price increases are being driven by a housing bubble. This will look at the time as though growth is robust — and this helps to explain the little bit of growth that did come about in the period before the housing bust — but the growth disappears as soon as the bubble pops. In fact, this type of investment leads to reduced growth relative to what could have been achieved with other investments. Thus, to the extent that tax cuts helped to fuel the housing bubble, they actually harmed rather than helped long-run growth.

A nuanced argument like Thoma’s is of no interest to DeMint, Cornyn and the rest, who begin with the idea of reducing the role and size of government in all areas but national security.  The ultimate extension of which is to put a vise on any socially responsible role for government.

Looking at a typical DeMint stump speech (like this one for example) you’ll find a lot of talk about freedom, with very little specifics about actual policies.  Maybe this is typical of a politician.  Given that DeMint is unquestionably radical (frequently holding up legislation on his own and being on the losing end of lopsided votes), the voters and media of SC deserve answers to tough question about DeMint’s real priorities.

DeMint and the rest hope to exclude human welfare from the political debate, throwing questions of health, education, quality of life and so on into the market while maintaining U.S. military interests abroad, where in both cases might makes right.

Read the rest of Rosen’s article, which concerns the reactions of other Senators, here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/12/16/105383/sc-sens-graham-demint-divided.html#ixzz18TjodXYr

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New Article: Exposing Sen. Jim DeMint’s Deplorable Record On Women’s Rights

Scott Rose has posted an article “Exposing Sen. Jim DeMint’s Deplorable Record On Women’s Rights”  to the PoliticsUSA blog.  I’m reposting part of it here, with references to the some of the bills in question.   Thanks to Tom Clements for forwarding Rose’s article.

South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  The bill, signed into law by President Obama, is symbolic of the nation’s commitment to eliminating discrimination against women in the workplace.  That such discrimination continues is well documented.  DeMint very blatantly abused his power as a United States Senator to attempt to perpetuate that vile discrimination.

Lilly Ledbetter was a salaried worker at a Goodrich Tire plant in Alabama.  In 1998 she filed a complaint about discrimination in performance evaluations creating a pattern of women workers paid thousands less than their male c0-workers.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the statue required Ledbetter to have filed a complaint within 180 days of first discovering the discrimination.   The Supreme Court never approached the question of discrimination because of the 180 day window.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act of 2009 removed the statute of limitations.   Jim DeMint attempted to attach three anti-union amendments to this bill (with the co-sponsorship of Louisiana’s David Vittner), which was tabled and forgotten by the Senate.

Rose explains DeMint’s vote on the Franken Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2010.

On October 6, 2009, DeMint voted against Franken Amendment number 2588.  Senator Al Franken had been motivated to propose the amendment by the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.  Ms. Jones was an employee of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR, under contract with the US government in Iraq.  She was the victim of a brutal gang rape, carried out by some of her fellow KBR employees.  Her Halliburton/KBR contract forbid her from pressing criminal charges and also from pursuing legal remedies in a civil court.  Following the rape, the company subjected Ms. Jones to unlawful imprisonment.

Furthermore, it tampered with evidence of the crimes committed against her by losing essential parts of the rape kit for the case.  Halliburton engaged in much additional disreputable behavior in an attempt to evade accountability.  The following details of the rape were confirmed by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz.  “When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants ruptured and her pectoral muscles torn – which would later require reconstructive surgery.  Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again.”

People of good conscience must never forget that Senator Jim DeMint voted against holding companies contracting with the U.S. government accountable for such monstrous crimes.

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DeMint took money from BP, then blocked the investigation of the oil spill on the floor of the Senate

DeMint took money from BP, then blocked the investigation of the oil spill on the floor of the Senate.  This legislation passed the House with the support of 169 Republicans, but DeMint blocked it from reaching the floor of the senate.

Here’s DeMint on the floor of the Senate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOAKBjYNHW0

In the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, DeMint the floor to block S.3462, and kill the subpoena of BP’s records relating to the spill and also neuter the oil spill investigation commission. This July 1 report by Mother Jones explains what DeMint did to block investigation after the oil had already been spilling for over 60 days:

Yesterday Republicans blocked a bill that would grant subpoena power to the oil spill commission President Obama formed to investigate the Deepwater Horizon disaster and make policy recommendations to prevent future drilling calamities.
[…]
But when Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) attempted to bring up the bill under unanimous consent yesterday, Jim DeMint (R-SC) blocked it. His spokesman told Politico that DeMint didn’t object to it personally. On the floor, the senator said he was objecting “on behalf of other members of the Republican caucus.” Who in particular? Well, obviously no one wanted to admit as much.

– Source: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/07/Demint-blocks-subpoena-bill-oil-spill

Politico did a story on the incident as well:

A similar measure passed the House last week by a vote of 420-1. A spokesman for DeMint said the South Carolina senator himself does not object to giving the commission subpoena power, but was acting on behalf of “members of the Republican conference.”

-Source: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=89C1A3F8-18FE-70B2-A827F2E3BB5ABA6F

DeMint, Senate GOP kill unemployment bill

Yesterday, Jim DeMint and other Republican Senators killed the unemployment extension bill.

The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 would have extended the filing deadline for existing tiers of unemployment benefits until November 30, 2010. COBRA health care subsidies for the unemployed would also have been extended. Other provisions in the bill include an extension of the current rate of Medicare payments to doctors and dozens of targeted tax cuts. The total cost of the bill is estimated at $141 billion, with $63 billion of new revenue being raised by closing tax loopholes that affect wealthy individuals and corporations.

Consequences of the bills failure will mean an increasing number of people loosing unemployment benefits, COBRA and will further stress Medicare.  This directly cruel to the out-of-work in this deep recession, failure to extend benefits will take money out of economy that will hurt local businesses as well in an add-on effect.

The supposed benefit of denying the bill would be in long term deficit reduction, with a side of punishment intended to push the unemployed into any kind of work somewhere.  Whether that work is available, is certainly not the case, where the official unemployment rate hangs around 10%.  In places like Union, Allendale and McCormick counties, the rate is closer to 18%.  Where these people are supposed to get the money to move, and where they are going to go, is evidently not Jim DeMint’s problem.

DeMint votes against jobless benefits, in favor of tax breaks for oil companies

Jim DeMint’s votes this past week in the Senate reveal the man’s priorities: cut employment benefits; give tax breaks to polluting energy companies, and increase defense spending at the expense of everything else:

AP Reports:
Jobless Benefits:

Voting 56 for and 40 against, the Senate on June 17 failed to reach 60 votes for ending a GOP filibuster against a bill (HR 4213) that would, in part, extend jobless checks for the long-term unemployed through November at a cost of $40 billion, provide $23 billion for Medicare payments to doctors through 2011 and appropriate $24 billion in emergency aid to the states…
Voting Against: Jim DeMint

DeMint helpled block the bill. The jobless benefits are not extended.

Oil and Gas Industry Tax Breaks:

Voting 35 for 61 against, the Senate on June 15 defeated an amendment to HR 4213 (above) to repeal three major tax breaks for oil and natural gas producers, generating $35.3 billion for the Treasury over ten years. About $25 billion of the proceeds would be used for deficit reduction and the remaining $10 billion would be spent on conservation and energy-efficiency grants to the states. The amendment sought to repeal the percentage-depletion allowance for oil and gas wells, the domestic-manufacturing deduction for oil and gas production and the expensing of intangible drilling costs.
Voting Against: Jim DeMint

DeMint voted with the majority. The tax breaks for the oil and gas industry stay.

Across the Board cut:

Voting 41 for and 57 against, the Senate on June 17 defeated a GOP amendment to HR 4213 (above) that would impose a one-time 5 percent discretionary-spending cut on all budgets except those for defense and veterans while freezing civil servants’ pay and federal staffing levels for one year, among other austerity measures. The amendment would cut taxes by $26 billion, spending by $100 billion and the national debt by $68 billion.
Voting For: Jim DeMint.

DeMint voted with the minority. The reduction of services to benefit Pentagon spending while reducing revenue failed.

More news:

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