The AP reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders. “Up to now,” the AP notes, Netanyahu “has refused to spell out his plan for negotiating the border.” A “senior Israeli official” would not confirm the report from an Israeli television station, but said “Israel was willing to try new formulas to restart peace talks based on a proposal made by President Barack Obama.” The American right wing, and even Netanyahu himself, vehemently criticized Obama’s position that negotiations should be based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps (which was also the position of Presidents Clinton and Bush). Netanyahu called the 1967 borders “indefensible.”
The Telegraph reports that a “government official” said “the offer was dependent on the Palestinians dropping their campaign for statehood at the United Nations next month and accepting Israel as a Jewish state.”
If, in fact, a threatened filibuster materializes tonight as the Senate prepares to vote on the debt ceiling compromise, said filibuster will keep a lot of Washington up late. It will also be exceedingly boring. American lawmakers may be good at a number of things, among them raising money, asking leading questions in hearings, and appearing on cable television, but almost none of them are even close to entertaining for more than a few minutes at a time. So if we’re going to have to suffer monologues, here are six people I’d rather see yielded time than any of our representatives in Congress.
1. Ian McShane, now and forever. Whether he’s reconciling God, evolution, and breakfast on Kings:
Or explaining the importance of calm to conquering the difficulties of life on Deadwood (which, NSFW unless you put your headphones in):
I would listen to McShane talk forever, and unlike most members of Congress, consider it a privilege to pay him to do it.
2. If you want to go full-bore crazy to match the circumstances, Tom Wilkinson, in Michael Clayton, does it better just about anyone else.
3. Or, if you want people to forget they’re being kept from the business at hand, bring in Emma Thompson, who can do inspired impressions all night long:
4. If the goal is to depress both yourselves and the journalists monitoring you, bring in Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs:
Then, he can cheer everyone up and creep everyone out by telling Truman Capote stories.
5. Or to talk your colleagues into economic stimulus, Gary Oldman in Fifth Element mode is always a good bet:
6. Meryl Streep, on sweaters. On anything:
With all eyes in Washington focused on the debt ceiling debate, little has been made of another costly impasse. Republicans have refused to re-authorize the Federal Aviation Administration without including an anti-union measure in the deal, leaving the FAA in the midst of a costly 10-day shutdown that has forced it to furlough more than 4,000 workers nationwide.
Now, with Congressional leaders seemingly close to ending their fight over the debt ceiling, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced today that the House will begin its August recess after it votes on the debt deal later today. That means the FAA shutdown, which began July 22, will likely last at least another month.
Democrats on the House Transportation Committee are outraged, as Reps. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Jerry Costello (D-IL) called the recess “irresponsible” and said they planned to write a letter to Cantor calling on him to keep the House in session until the FAA was re-authorized.
Meanwhile, the FAA’s airport inspectors keep doing their jobs, even without pay:
The administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration says airport safety inspectors nationwide are working without pay and shouldering travel expenses themselves, as the agency’s budget crisis enters a second week. [...]
An inspector may travel to five airports in a two-week period, racking up thousands of dollars in hotel and airline tickets. Babbitt says they’re being asked to put those expenses on personal credit cards.
The government is losing more than $200 million a week in revenue generated through ticket taxes during the shutdown, and $2.5 billion in airport infrastructure improvement projects are on hold. The airlines, meanwhile, have used those tax breaks to line their own pockets rather than pass the savings on to customers.The Senate is reportedly staying in session to work on a re-authorization plan.
Despite conservatives’ fears of a government takeover of health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the government?s “share of national health spending, while unquestionably large, is not growing much at all, and even in ten years it will be less than half of our country?s total health spending,” Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman points out. In fact, last week’s report from the the Medicare Office of the Actuary found that “the share of health spending financed by the FEDERAL government will go from 29% in 2010 to 31% in 2020″:
Matt Zeitlin flagged for me a section in Robert Costa’s profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in which the Virginia Republican confesses his abiding love for urban planning and land use policy:
“Remember, Virginia’s legislature follows the Jeffersonian model, so I felt I could still have a career and do this,” Cantor says. Politics also did not seem too far removed from what he was doing in real estate. “I have always had a real affinity for urban planning,” he says. “Land planning is what makes communities work; it’s what drives people in terms of careers, their employment base, shopping habits, and retail tastes.” Understanding what “drives people, how they choose to live,” was integral to both of Cantor’s jobs, and is a skill that remains useful to this day, he says, as he learns about the complex districts within the GOP conference. He surveys each like a business project.
The article, unfortunately, doesn’t give us much of a sense of what it is Cantor thinks about these issues. But Cantor is absolutely right that land use regulation is much more central to understanding what communities look like and how people end up living than is conventionally understood. Different places are different from one another, but that’s not something that just happens. It’s oftentimes the result of deliberate policy choices. Maybe Cantor will like my book. At a minimum, he could win some points with me by becoming an advocate for repealing the job-killed DC Height Act.
After LGBT activists threatened a boycott of member business, the Wilton Manors Business Association is canceling an appearance by Rep. Allen West (R-FL), reports the Sun Sentinel. West has made headlines when he attacked the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, claiming that gay soldiers will “break down the military.” The boycott threat was organized by Michael Rajner, legislative director of the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Caucus, who said last week that gay activists would boycott businesses if the business association didn?t rescind the invite to West.
The Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery reports that Vice President Biden told House Democrats that President Obama would have used the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent a catastrophic default if Congress failed to reach a debt ceiling deal:
This report is hearsay upon hearsay, so there is no way to be sure what Biden actually told the caucus. And the report is also surprising given the number of times that Obama claimed he did not have the authority to invoke the Constitution in order to lift the debt ceiling.
The GOP was able to force a one-sided deal for a very simple reason — they took the entire world’s economy hostage and left only a shred of doubt that they were foolish enough to shoot the hostage. Their game was to leave President Obama with no choice but to agree to their terms because he had no tools available to free their hostage.
If the reports about Biden’s statement are true, however, we now know that Obama believed that he did have a tool which, if nothing else, he could have threatened to invoke to scare the GOP into believing that if they pushed too hard they’d be left with nothing. Instead of doing so, Obama consistently stated that he believed the Constitution could not save America from the GOP’s hostage crisis.
There are all kinds of good reasons why invoking the Fourteenth Amendment should only have been done as a matter of last resort. Among other things, a cloud of legal uncertainty would have hung over any bonds issued under the constitutional option, forcing America to pay inflated interest rates in order to sell them. Nevertheless, President Obama was wrong to rhetorically take this option off the table at a time when the GOP’s entire negotiating strategy depended upon backing the nation into a corner.
Last night, President Obama claimed his debt ceiling deal as lifting the “cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.” While he expresses concern for the political weather, the actual weather — poisoned by carbon pollution — is growing more devastating. The drastic cuts in federal investment that are requirements of the debt deal will leave the nation in deadly peril from our superheated climate, just as full mobilization is needed.
Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought attention to the deadly scourge of severe weather fueled by climate change, and the federal government’s troubling lack of readiness. In an appropriations subcommittee hearing attended only by himself — Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) appeared only to give an opening statement, but left without asking witnesses questions — Durbin interviewed top climate scientist Donald Wuebles, NOAA deputy administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and representatives from the Small Business Administration and the private re-insurance industry. Durbin discussed the extraordinary damage to the nation from climate disasters in the first seven months of 2011, before asking whether the federal government is actually ready:
We’ve seen droughts in Texas, wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico, flooding in Tennessee, and according to Sen. Moran, both in his state, drought and flooding. Today, there are excessive heat warnings in twenty communities throughout Kansas, Sen. Moran’s home state, and flood warnings along the Missouri River. In 2011, almost $28 billion in damages have already been caused by catastrophic events, and the hurricane season is just starting. The economic impact of severe weather events is only projected to grow in future years as the frequency and intensity of weather events continues to grow.
The weather is getting worse and more violent. Catastrophic, in fact. The federal government needs to do more to be ready to protect federal assets and provide disaster assistance on an increasing frequency. Are we ready?
“I’m not sure the federal government is thinking ahead when it comes to our preparedness for disasters,” Durbin continued, with extreme understatement. Dr. Wuebles explained that because oceans can store vast amounts of heat, the changes in climate we are now seeing are the result of the pollution added twenty years ago — which means that failure to act now will doom future generations to an unimaginably deadly world.
“We’ve stopped talking about this on Capitol Hill,” Durbin concluded. “We’ve decided that the debate over global warming is too contentious. I think it’s a big mistake.”
We don't care about helping sick people - we're Republicans!
I wonder if Gov. Rick's antipathy toward these programs has anything to do with the potential loss of money to his family's nursing homes or his contributors in the insurance and health care industries? Of course, since he's a wingnut, there's always a strong possibility that he's simply crazy:
In recent months, either Gov. Rick Scott?s administration or the state?s Republican-controlled Legislature has rejected grants aimed at moving long-term care patients into their homes, curbing child abuse through in-home counseling and strengthening state regulation of health premiums. They have shunned money to help sign up eligible recipients for Medicare, educate teenagers on preventing pregnancy and plan for the health insurance exchanges that the law requires by 2014.
While 36 states shared $27 million to counsel health insurance consumers, Florida did not apply for the grants. And in drafting this year?s budget, the Legislature failed to authorize an $8.3 million federal grant won by a county health department to expand community health centers.
[...] In distancing itself from the law, Florida declined to participate in a Medicaid pilot program that would have authorized up to $2 million in reimbursement to providers using a new hospice model for severely ill children. The state insurance commissioner applied to the Obama administration for a waiver from this year?s requirement that health insurers spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical care. Only at the last minute did the State Health Department agree to provide required letters of support for community groups applying for federal wellness and prevention grants.
Critics say the state?s Republican leadership has carried its opposition to the health care law too far. The grants being shunned by the state, they point out, have little connection to the provisions that Florida is challenging in court, namely the insurance mandate and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility.
?It?s simply unconscionable that they?re turning back federal tax dollars that our citizens and businesses pay and sending those tax dollars to other states,? said Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat who represents the Tampa Bay area. ?Florida?s economy has been hit very hard, and we need every dollar and every job in our state.?
(Chart courtesy Calculated Risk)
Okay, debt ceiling debacle is nearly over, so now is the time for that pivot to jobs. That said, I'll take Greg Sargent up on his offer to forgive my skepticism that it's what Washington will actually do.
[T]here?s finally a glimmer of evidence that officials are beginning to talk about that long-promised pivot to jobs that seemed to get snuffed out by the nonstop deficit chatter that has dominated Washington for months and months.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing has been holding extensive meetings with officials in both parties, but particularly the Democratic party, about some new polling the group released finding overwhelming public support for prioritizing job creation over deficit reduction. The group?s executive director, Scott Paul, says he?s been cautiously encouraged by the interest lawmakers are showing in his pitch, in which he suggests that they embrace an array of pro-manufacturing policies.
That poll found that when given an either/or choice, 67 percent, or more than two thirds, want job creation favored, while just 29 percent want Washington to focus on deficits. The poll also found increased support for government action to bolster the manufacturing sector.
Two of D.C.?s best known pollsters, Dem Mark Mellman and Republican Whit Aryes, have been briefing lawmakers in their respective parties, including party leaders, on the poll?s findings, and have urged them to seriously consider a real pivot to jobs after the deficit deal is finalized, Paul tells me.[...]
Absolutely the polling shows that Americans want job creation before anything else. They've been saying that for months, for the years since the Great Recession began. Just like the American people said tax us, don't cut Social Security or America. If politicians actually governed depending on what the American people said they wanted policies to be, we'd have had "jobs, jobs, jobs" for the last year and a half instead of "deficit, deficit, deficit." We'd probably also still have a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
It's what Democrats should by all means be talking about, nonstop. It's all they should have been talking about all these past months. But Democrats don't set the agenda, regardless of having the White House and the Senate. Instead, there will be a big fight in September over the discretionary spending caps for FY2012, in which Republicans will continue to fight to reduce spending. They'll take the FY2012 budget hostage again, and stimulus and jobs will be pushed to the back burner, again. Because the reality is that Republicans want to inflict as much economic pain on the country as they possibly can because that's how they beat President Obama. And beating President Obama is job one.
That's by no means how it should be, but we're well past anything in Washington working as it should.