The House was not in session today. They return to DC from their recess next week.
The Senate delivered as expected on the transportation bill, finishing up work on the final two amendments and then passing the measure by a vote of 74-22. All it took was a month to get there.
The Senate's threatened judicial nomination cloture showdown failed to materialize yesterday, which on the whole is probably a good thing. Faced with the prospect of wasting an enormous amount of time on cloture (and more particularly, on post-cloture time) for a large number of non-controversial nominees, or alternatively, wasting an entire day and getting nowhere on any of it, Senators instead came to an agreement to take up 14 of the 17 nominations for which cloture motions are pending and complete consideration of them by mid-May.
What happens to the other three? I don't know.
What do Republicans get in exchange for allowing the votes to go forward? Immediate consideration of the not-even-all-that-interesting "JOBS Act," which the Senate schedule lists under its original designation, the "Capital Formation" bill.
According to the above-linked article, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was very keen on getting this thing to the floor, apparently because it had the acronym "JOBS" in the title. But as you'll recall from discussion of the bill when it was in the House last week, it's really not much of a jobs bill. It's more of a minor financial market deregulatory bill (and don't we all just really love those?), and the "JOBS" tag was slapped on it as something of an afterthought.
You may also remember that the bill passed in the House with broad, bipartisan support, and that that was the case largely because much of the bill was comprised of similar measures that had already been passed in the House previously, also with broad, bipartisan support.
So that fact?not mentioned in the WaPo piece?puts a little bit of a different spin on the McConnell complaint that Senate Dems were stalling on the bill, and instead creating "a manufactured crisis" over judicial nominations, instead. The crisis?which includes 80+ judicial vacancies on the federal bench, exacerbated by these mass filibusters?is real enough. And who else can you blame for the delay caused by considering the same bills twice in the House, but the House's Republican leadership?
But that didn't make the cut in the article. You had to come here for that.
Looking ahead to today:
Uh... well, I sort of gave it all away in the recap section, but the Senate will take up H.R. 3606, that misnamed capital formation bill currently wearing the "JOBS Act" disguise. It's unclear whether they'll have much to say about it at this point, since it flew through the House (twice) with relative ease. The Senate, of course, can throw a monkey wrench into anything, so you never really know. But it's entirely possible that they could move the bill through with minimal debate.
At 1:45, they'll move into executive session to take up the first two of the 14 agreed-upon judicial nominations which, from the looks of the schedule ("15 minutes of debate equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Grassley"), appear ready to sail through without difficulty.
Today's floor and committee schedules appear below the fold.
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT?s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here?s what we?re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you?re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) has been spending taxpayers’ money to distribute lie-riddled anti-gay mailers.
- Pressure is again mounting to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate.
- Married same-sex couples face two choices on their federal income taxes: lie by identifying as single or break the law.
- Opponents of Maryland’s new marriage equality law have begun collecting signatures for a referendum.
- The Chicago City Council is considering new guidelines for how police are trained to respect transgender people.
- Folly Beach, South Carolina, unanimously passed an ordinance to prevent anti-LGBT discrimination in public accommodations this week.
- Anchorage, Alaska is preparing to vote on its anti-discrimination ordinance.
- Sixteen-year-old Anoka-Hennepin lesbian student Ebonie Richardson explains why she sued her school for not protecting her from bullying.
- The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles is partnering with the “It Gets Better” Project for a nationwide concert tour.
- Brigham Young University student Nick Norman came out this week in the school’s independent newspaper.
- Katie Goodman and company share a fun new “Homophobia Song.” Take a listen:
While I was on the way home from Austin last night, HBO permanently suspended production on Luck and announced that it wouldn’t air the episodes it had produced for a second season of the critically-praised but little-watched horse-racing show from David Milch, Michael Mann, and starring Dustin Hoffman. Three horses had been injured so badly in the making of the show that they had to be euthanized, and as Jamie Weinman suggests, I think correctly, that track record became a liability that offset the benefits HBO garnered from renewing the show despite the fact that it wasn’t a smash.
For me, Luck became a kind of litmus test: it was the first critically-regarded show about middle-aged (mostly) white men that I gave myself permission to stop watching because I felt like it didn’t have anything to say to me. I don’t mean to say that I don’t want to watch shows that aren’t about characters who match my demographics exactly?though you are going to hear a rather enormous amount about Girls in coming weeks. But I’m tired of a sense that shows about middle-aged white men behaving aberrantly attract a cultural and critical cachet that attaches itself to no other type of programming. And I just care too much about other things to push them out of my schedule to make room for something like Luck.
My personal feelings on the show aside, though, I do think it’s probably a positive thing that, if the show couldn’t find a way to continue production without destroying horses, HBO cancelled it. We’re not that far removed from the use of trip wires to bring horses down in Westerns, and it’s a good thing we don’t see the damage we do to animals, either accidentally or intentionally, as acceptable. Now if only we could get folks as exorcised about reality shows that require participants to sign contracts that exempt the companies producing the programs from any responsibility if they get raped, we’d be in good shape.
Other stories below: U.S. economists back EU emissions plan; Could cherry blossoms bloom in the winter one day?
The reduction in Arctic sea ice caused by climate change is playing a role in the UK’s recent colder and drier winter weather, according to the Met Office.
Speaking to MPs on the influential environmental audit committee about the state of the warming Arctic, Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office, said that decreasing amounts of ice in the far north was contributing to colder winters in the UK and northern Europe as well as to drought. But she stressed that while it was one factor and not the “dominant driver” in the UK.
The south-east and other parts of England are experiencing especially dry conditions after months of below-average rainfall, with some water companies pledging on Monday to introduce hosepipe bans to conserve water….
Slingo told the MPs that there is “increasing evidence in the last few months of that depletion of ice, in particular in the Bering and Kara seas, can plausibly impact on our winter weather and lead to colder winters over northern Europe”.
She added that more cold winters mean less water, and could exacerbate future droughts. “The replenishment of aquifers generally happens in winter and spring ? a wet summer does not replenish aquifers. So we are concerned if we have a sequence of cold winters that could be much more damaging,” she told the committee.
Last month the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, warned farmers that drought might become “the new normal” for the UK, because of climate change.
Could cherry blossoms one day be blooming in winter?
When Hurricane Irene neared New York at the end of August, the city took the unprecedented step of shutting down the entire transit system?buses, subways and commuter trains in the largest city in America. The danger was that heavy rains from Irene could cause flooding that would swamp tunnels and tracks, causing lasting damage to the most important public transit system in the country. Fortunately, that didn?t happen?Irene weakened as it reached the city, and the catastrophe officials feared never materialized. But it was close. The Metropolitan Transit Authority lost the Port Jervis line for months at the cost of nearly $40 million. And had the storm surge from Irene been just a foot higher, it would have flooded the subways, causing billions of dollars in damages and making transportation around New York impossible.
Irene could just be a preview of what the entire country will be facing in a warmer world. According to new research by the nonprofit group Climate Central?which employs TIME contributor Michael Lemonick?about 3.7 million people live within a few feet of high tide and are in danger of being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in the future because of sea level rise caused by climate change. And if sea level rise accelerates because of rapid warming?as seems likely to happen barring major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?major coastal floods that are now rare could become a much more frequent occurrence. ?The sea level rise from global warming has already doubled the risk of extreme coastal floods,? says Benjamin Strauss, one of the co-authors of the two papers that outline the new research. ?We hope this research can help everyone prepare for this.?
Washington?s cherry blossoms are busting out early this year, with buds popping so fast that a government work crew this week watched them unfurl on one tree in a single day.The U.S. National Park Service had predicted an early bloom for the centennial year of the hallowed trees. But it has moved up the forecast twice, with temperatures in the 80s and more of the same expected.
Now comes a team of scientists theorizing that with drastic warming of the globe, future decades could see blossom times not just a few days early but advanced by almost a month.
That could mean a bloom process that begins in January, rather than February, a blooming period in February instead of March, and a peak bloom in early March, instead of early April, the research suggests.
The ideas are contained in a scholarly paper published by experts at the University of Washington who studied data on the Tidal Basin?s blossoms, as ?ideal indicators of the impacts of climate change.?
One of the odd features of U.S. transportation policy is that, by and large, there isn?t an overarching national policy. States generally get money according to a set formula. Congress tends not to prioritize those projects that advance key economic or environmental goals.
But on Wednesday, the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill that tries to change all that ? at least in a few modest ways. The bill itself is critical because funding for roads, bridges and transit is set to run out on March 31. But there are a few notable reforms tucked away in the legislation itself. For one, the Senate bill actually articulates major national goals for U.S. transportation policy ? things like managing congestion, improving road conditions, reducing environmental impacts, improving the reliability of freight, and increasing access to transit. These goals don?t really affect the way funding is handed out, but at least they finally exist.
In the debate pitting photovoltaic power stations against agriculture, all eyes have been on Fresno County, where the abundance of sunshine that make it the No. 1 agriculture-producing county in the nation also make it ideal for solar arrays.
This week Fresno County, with 29 projects on 11,000 acres in the pipeline, approved its plan to balance food security with green energy with a decision that falls short of what both sides wanted.
Under the new regulations, authorities will consider the prior agricultural productivity of farmland in deciding whether to issue conditional use permits for projects on that land, but they will not automatically direct development to marginal and retired land lacking adequate water supplies, as farm organizations had wanted.
“Let’s not just give away the store,” said Chris Scheuring, attorney with the California Farm Bureau Federation, who compares it to the historic loss of fisheries. “We did that with salmon 50 years ago when we built those dams. Farmland today is salmon to me.”
The irrigation of Chinese farm fields with more water pumped from ever deeper underground is responsible for 33m tonnes of carbon dioxide per year ? equivalent to the entire emissions of New Zealand ? a new study revealed on Wednesday.
The research, carried out by a team of UK and Chinese scientists, highlights the rising but often overlooked energy and climate costs of irrigating crops in drought-plagued northern China, where farmers have to mine aquifers because surface rivers and lakes are increasingly polluted and over-exploited by factories and cities.
The authors found that groundwater used for crop irrigation in China has grown from 10bn cubic metres in 1950 to more than 100bn today. The country is now second only to India in tapping largely unreplenishable aquifers.
A group of U.S. economists has written a letter to President Barack Obama backing the European Union’s emissions-trading system for the global airline industry.
The economists call on the U.S. to support the EU’s “innovative efforts” to price carbon and limit aviation emissions, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“Your administration should endorse the EU’s efforts, not oppose them,” the 26 economists wrote in the letter, which was dated Tuesday.
The signatories include five Nobel laureates, among them Thomas Sargent, winner of last year’s prize in economics and a professor at New York University.
The decision by a parliamentary committee to review British government policies on the Arctic on Wednesday comes amid a surge of global economic and political interest in the far north.
British-based oil companies, Shell and Cairn Energy, are at the centre of a new commercial drive into the region where melting ice caps are endangering the polar bear but making drilling more easy.
The environmental audit committee makes clear the UK has a “strong environmental, political, economic and scientific interests in the region” while individual committee members, such as the Green MP Caroline Lucas, point out it is a critical area surrounding all aspects of climate change.
Welcome to Justiceline, ThinkProgress Justice?s morning round-up of the latest legal news and developments. Remember to follow us on Twitter at @TPJustice.
Welcome to ThinkProgress Economy?s morning link roundup. This is what we?re reading. Have you seen any interesting news? Let us know in the comments section. You can also follow ThinkProgress Economy on Twitter.
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteThis is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.Find the past "On This Day in History" here.March 15 is the 74th day of the year (75th in leap years) in[...]
Read The Full Article:
You don?t have to be a genius to know the basics of running for office: Look sharp, love America, take in big money, and?most important?promise you won?t raise taxes. Thanks to Grover Norquist and his band of anti-tax crusaders, raising taxes has come to seem akin to murdering puppies and loving terrorists. Even during the
worst fiscal crisis in 80 years, if you?re a state lawmaker, you must cut core government programs without ever mentioning the ?T? word. And if, God forbid, you decide to raise taxes anyhow, do everything you can to distract people from the effort. Openly calling for citizens to pay more to their government is nothing short of political suicide.
By this conventional wisdom, it may seem like Jerry Brown has a death wish. After years of mounting debt and drastic cuts to state services, California?s Democratic governor has proposed raising the state sales tax along with income taxes for wealthy residents. Despite its liberal reputation, California is hardly an easy place to pass a tax hike; to raise taxes, state law requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature or a successful public initiative. Brown has opted for the initiative process, and his statewide campaign lays out the stakes: Failure to pass his plan in November will trigger automatic cuts to education spending. Californians are getting the message. According to a Public Policy Institute of California survey, 68 percent of likely voters support Brown?s plan?including 53 percent of Republicans.
Brown?s loud-and-proud tax plan is a bracing rebuke to the political norm. ?The right wing has been so successful at demonizing taxes over the past three decades that it?s hard for there to be the climate for an honest discussion,? says Jon Shure of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But state lawmakers are raising taxes. According to the center, between October 2008 and September 2009?the first year of the recession?taxes went up in 33 states. By and large, the hikes were modest and had to be combined with spending cuts, but they still helped save jobs and preserve essential services. ?Despite all the rhetoric,? Shure says, ?tax increases are in fact a major part of dealing with the impact of the recession and make very, very good fiscal sense.?
You wouldn?t know it, though, from listening to most Democratic officials. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned on a promise of ?no new taxes, period.? Even when he struck a deal last December to raise income taxes on the wealthy to close the state?s budget gap, he continued to insist, ?I am against higher taxes.? When Democrats shy away from championing a vision of fair taxation, it gives conservatives the upper hand, rhetorically and politically.
For instance, as the 2008 financial crisis hit New Jersey, Democrats raised income taxes on those making more than $400,000, as well as sin taxes?on alcohol, cigarettes, lottery winnings. But they didn?t make a strong case for the necessity of the taxes and passed them on a temporary basis. When Governor Chris Christie took office in 2010, he refused to renew the increases, and now, as the state faces another shortfall, he?s pushing for cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthy. Democrats are fighting back but avoiding the ?T? word as they do?talking instead about the need ?to restore the surcharge differential on those who earn $1 million or more.?
By contrast, Maryland Governor Martin O?Malley has been straightforward about raising taxes to maintain the state?s schools and services, which are among the nation?s best. In 2007, he combined tax increases with budget cuts to address structural deficits. O?Malley got re-elected in 2010?a bad year for other Democrats?by a 14-point margin. This year, even as he positions himself for a possible presidential bid in 2016, O?Malley is pushing a gas-tax increase and an income-tax hike on the wealthy. ?Asking our fellow citizens to do more will not be popular,? O?Malley said in his 2012 State of the State address. ?But without anger, fear, or meanness, let?s ask one another: How much less do we think would be good for our children?s future??
In 2012, Democrats have an opportunity to reframe the tax debate, as Brown and O?Malley have done. Public anger has risen over economic inequality. Most states are suffering from cuts to popular institutions?schools, firehouses, parks. Smart politicians can sell tax increases as fair and prudent. In the process, they can also highlight the extremism of Republicans who have sworn to never raise taxes, no matter the circumstances. Advocating a better tax policy needn?t be political suicide. In fact, the bigger political risk comes from failing to do so.
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE?
Oh! More Things I Know:
> The Netroots Nation convention in Providence starts inCheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
15 14 1312 weeks, and your opportunity to win a scholarship (free registration and accommodations) is just a click away.
> The C&J "Name That Duck" (the one just up yonder givin' you the evil eye) contest is also underway---Rules and stuff are here. Based on the response so far, it's heartening to see that so many of you are aware that duck and fuck are ripe for creative wordplay.
> Rush Limbaugh really shouldn?t have said that. Or that. Or that. Or that. Or that. Or that?
> The drunkest holiday isn't St. Patrick's Day. According to Time magazine it comes in second to Cinco de Mayo. And, if memory serves, third to National Bring Your Child To Work Day.
> Newt Gingrich has never given a speech where he didn?t sound like he was speaking at a funeral.
> Sexual partners should always use protection. I say you can't go wrong with a bazooka.
> They should scrap the name America's Funniest Home Videos and instead call it what it is: The ABC Gratuitous Pain and Cruelty Hour.
> I'm sensing through today's Doonesbury strip that Mr. Trudeau is a bit peeved about forced transvaginal ultrasounds.
> The pre-content web ad you have to sit through always plays flawlessly. The content that follows it doesn't.
> The political races I like to watch most are the hotly uncontested ones.
> If Rick Santorum becomes president, the family won?t get a pet dog. They'll get a pet exorcist. ("Expel Satan, boy! Expel Satan, boy! Goooood boy!")
> I only use extra-virgin olive oil because I've been told that the other kinds are sluts.
> And, as always: the only group of people who have been consistently correct about the economic crisis and what to do about it have been the dirty fucking hippies.
"We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop," he told the newspaper.Jason Links does a good job of pointing out ignorance and incoherency of this outburst (including the fact that there is no law that says you must speak English in order to be admitted as a state) but Santorum is not likely to be the 2012 nominee (2016 is a different matter). Santorum does have the ability to raise campaign topics that the Romney camp would surely wish to keep as silent as possible on. Statehood for Puerto Rico is one of those issues.
But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language.
"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."