Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) has signed on as the 123rd House co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He is also speaking out against North Carolina’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, saying, “This is entirely about putting on the ballot a very divisive issue for political purposes … and to try to lock in the attitudes of one generation. The amendment goes well beyond marriage and would prohibit any type of civil union legal recognition as well.” (HT: The Advocate.)
The Obama administration is reportedly considering keeping a small military presence of 3,000 troops in Iraq past the 2011 total withdrawal deadline. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attacked President Obama, saying 3,000 isn’t enough (the White House denied the reports and the Iraqis haven’t agreed to any extended troop presence), with McCain claiming that all “military people” want a large U.S. force in Iraq past 2011. Yet Army Chief of Staff and former top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno warned against a large force. “I always felt we had to be careful about leaving too many people in Iraq,? he said. And today, in an interview with USA Today, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he’s fine with the planned withdrawal as is (i.e. down to zero by Dec. 31, 2011). “Mullen also says he is pleased with the current withdrawal schedule of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year,” reports USA Today.
Republicans in the Michigan legislature may push legislation to prohibit public employers from offering taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with public employees, adversely affecting gays and lesbians who cannot marry in the state. Earlier this year, the Michigan Civil Service Commission voted “to allow state employees to share health care benefits with an ‘other eligible adult,’” a decision the state GOP has repeatedly sought to overturn.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) veered off GOP’s “repeal and replace” talking points yesterday during an appearance with CMS administrator Don Berwick in Nashville, Tennessee, suggesting that the next challenge in health care policy is not rolling back the Affordable Care Act, but implementing it:
FRIST: You know, we’ve seen Medicare, we’ve seen Medicaid, we’ve seen the most recent reform — the Affordable Care Act. I think what we’re going to see now is no more legislation but a demand for implementation of all these in an improved modernized way through partnerships and I’m very hopeful, based on both the most recent legislation but also the incentives of the system, that all of that centers on value that is quality and outcomes and results for dollar invested… it will be a partnership between the public sector, the private sector, and the government.
At the forum, Frist also reiterated his belief that the Affordable Care Act would survive legal challenges, even if the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The senator had supported the individual mandate back in 2009, when, in an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report, he wrote, ?It is time for an individual health insurance mandate for a minimum level of health coverage.? ?It is a conservative approach that would affordably achieve necessary goals,? he added. In April 2010, Frist also gave an ?A? grade to the provisions in the law aimed at expanding insurance to an additional 32 million people, but argued that the administration could have done more to control spending.
by Kiley Kroh
Yesterday, federal regulators released their report on the cause of BP?s April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The report finds BP ?ultimately responsible? for the catastrophe because it had sought to cut costs and save time, all at the expense of safety. The joint Interior-US Coast Guard effort is the conclusion of a 17-month investigation, the most exhaustive to date.
Though the brunt of the blame certainly falls on BP for its ?failure to have full supervision and accountability over the activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon,? the report also cites key failures on the part of both Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co. as contributing to the eventual blowout.
The report concluded that a “central cause of the blowout was failure of a cement barrier.” Halliburton ran cementing operations for the well that ultimately took three months to seal. The report also criticizes drilling rig owner Transocean for two critical failures. First, rather than sending the escaping gas overboard, Transocean personnel used a piece of equipment that kept the gas on the rig, allowing it to ignite. And second, they subsequently failed to promptly alert engine operators that gas was detected.
The report echoes many of the same findings as previous probes ? including those of the independent National Oil Spill Commission. The question now is whether the governmental involvement will carry any weight in Congress where Republican lawmakers in particular have said they are unwilling to adopt reforms until this investigation was complete. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has had no problem passing a host of bills that cater directly to the oil industry by simultaneously weakening oversight and opening vast areas of the US to new drilling.
On the regulatory side, the report notes that “stronger and more comprehensive federal regulations might have reduced the likelihood of the Macondo blowout.? The Washington Post offers harsher criticism:
While the federal investigative team lays blame on decisions made by the companies, it does not address the government?s own role in approving some of the questionable decisions. The federal agency that oversees offshore drilling signed off on many of the calls made by the companies, sometimes in minutes, and accepted an outdated and erroneous oil spill plan for the well that discussed protecting species that did not even exist in the Gulf of Mexico
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement has taken steps to shore up offshore drilling safety ? including requiring operations plans to include a demonstrated ability to contain a subsea blowout. And the release of today?s report reinforces the need for the further measures proposed by Director Michael Bromwich this week that include third party safety audit requirements, procedures for reporting unsafe work conditions, and an array of new job safety guidelines.
However, the fact still remains that Congress has failed to pass a single piece of legislation aimed at strengthening offshore drilling safety or oversight, raising the oil spill liability limit (which is currently capped at a ridiculously low $75 million), or catalyzing the restoration process in the gulf.
The explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon cost the lives of 11 people, spilled over 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, and wreaked untold havoc on the ecosystems and communities of an entire region. Rep. Markey has introduced a bill (H.R. 501), Implementing the Recommendations of the BP Oil Spill Commission Act of 2011, building on the recommendations of the BP Spill Commission to reform the practices and oversight of the offshore oil industry, but the GOP leadership has refused to allow any action on the legislation.
In 2010, during the previous session of Congress, Senate Republicans blocked similar House-passed legislation that would have improved offshore drilling safety. Rep. Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who has continually pushed pro-drilling legislation since the disaster, says a response is forthcoming: ?We have waited far too long for this report, but the Committee is ready to take action.?
What that action might entail, remains to be seen.
? Kiley Kroh is associate director of Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress
The Climate Reality Project’s 24 Hours of Reality continues in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The desert city is rife with contradiction — an intense experiment in consumption and construction in one of the most inhospitable climates on Earth, one growing ever hotter because of global warming. There are efforts to create a low-carbon city of the future in the Arab desert here, but it is also home to extravagances as refrigerated beaches. Presented by Ibrahim Al-Zu?bi, a civil engineer and environmental adviser to the Dubai government.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to task for blocking a critical transportation bill — an action that could put 80,000 people out of work by this weekend. The GOP-controlled House has already passed the bill, which temporarily extends funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and highway projects, in order to avert another FAA shutdown.
The bill needs to be signed by President Obama by Friday, but Coburn is threatening to let the deadline pass. He’s even found a novel excuse for holding the bill hostage — his objection to bike paths and trees:
Coburn spokesman John Hart said Wednesday that the senator “makes no apologies for doing everything in his power to force his colleagues to cut wasteful spending instead of inflicting further damage on our economy through unnecessary borrowing.
“Congress?s refusal to live within its means has created an economic disaster and a debt that is now our greatest national security threat,” he said.
Hart said Coburn was also opposed to provisions in the transportation bill designed to increase the number of bike paths and trees along roadways.
“The beautification mandate is an indefensible threat against public safety that forces states to prioritize bike paths over bridge repair,” he said.
Earlier this summer, Republican refusal to reauthorize the FAA without passage of an anti-union provision shut down the agency for weeks. Their action furloughed 4,000 FAA workers, forced others to work without pay, halted $2.5 billion in airport construction projects, and cost the government about $200 million a week. Coburn is threatening to repeat that event by refusing to let the Senate vote on the bill by Friday.
Adding insult to injury, Coburn is also holding up a bill to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which must be voted on first before the Senate can take up FAA authorization. Coburn objects to the price tag of the $6.9 billion FEMA bill. This emergency disaster aid is, of course, important to pass quickly in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters. Reid even compared Coburn to a dictator for holding up the bill.
If you're an American consumer with small children, the chances of interacting with something made by toy giant Mattel (Nasdaq: MAT) are probably no less than 99.999998%. Whether you're always stepping on the cold, die-cast metal of a Hot Wheels car your son always manages to leave out in the living room ,or being overwhelmed by the pink of the Barbie and Disney Princess collection in Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT) vast toy aisle, there's no avoiding the company's grip.
This is a stock Warren Buffett would love I can't even imagine what I've contributed to Mattel's earnings per share (EPS) during the past 12 years but, suffice it to say, there's a good shot I could get a seat . . . → Read More: Warren Buffett Would Love This Stock
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