Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 3:42 am | Updated: 5:02 am, Thu Oct 10, 2013.
Associated Press |
Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick had been expected to face a tough re-election fight.
Then he sided with GOP leadership and a tea party insisting that a federal spending plan to keep the government open must delay or defund President Barack Obama’s health care law. Now, with the partial government shutdown stretching into its second week, Fitzpatrick’s bid for a second term may be growing even more challenging.
Voters in his suburban Philadelphia district talk of a widening sense of disappointment with their two-term congressman, while Democrats across Pennsylvania and other states claim new momentum in their quest to take back the House majority next fall
“It would have been nice for him to make a decision that wasn’t based on party,” says Daryl Curtis, who for two decades has run a barber shop along Bristol’s sleepy main drag.
For the GOP, the stakes in places like Bristol are high. The fight for control of the House likely will be won and lost in suburban swing districts where most voters favor political moderation and independence over party ideology. Republican success in hanging onto these districts will depend, in part, on how well they explain the shutdown to weary voters _ and how long it lasts.
That’s putting new pressure on Republican moderates who represent such districts, Fitzpatrick included.
After weeks of trying to balance the wishes of his moderate district and House conservatives, he sided with most congressional Republicans in refusing to approve a measure that would have kept the government operating because it also would have continued to pay for the health care law. Democrats, who control the White House and the Senate, refused to delay or destroy the landmark health care law. The impasse resulted in the government shutdown.
Oct 9, 2013 – A group that advocates for public transit riders has raised questions about a proposal to remove buses from the center of Downtown Pittsburgh, saying it puts the interests of a few businesses ahead of "the greater good of the entire community."
The group, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, also is demanding public involvement in any plan to reroute buses, community organizer Helen Gerhardt said Tuesday. "We’re going to make sure that we are very vocal and very involved every step of the way," she said.
The group is concerned about a proposal embraced by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the likely next mayor of Pittsburgh, city Councilman Bill Peduto, to create a bus-free zone in the center of the Golden Triangle. Bus routes would be moved out toward the fringes of Downtown.
Mr. Peduto said he envisions a circular route pattern using wider streets toward the edges of Downtown rather than having buses coming from four different directions and turning around in the middle of town.
Mr. Fitzgerald reiterated Tuesday that planning for such a change is in its very early stages.
"There are some discussions about how to put a plan together but there is no plan," he said. "There will be public participation, absolutely. I think people are getting the wrong idea that this is going to happen imminently and they’ll have no input."
Pittsburghers for Public Transit, which says it has nearly 6,000 supporters who have signed up for email and phone alerts about transit issues, said in an email that "precedence should not be given to the few businesses that have called for removal of bus stops in front of their establishments, when the greater good of the entire community should be our first public priority."
Over the past couple of weeks, it’s become apparent to me and many others that this entire showdown is not over Obamacare. The ACA is a convenient patsy because it is new, untested, and they’ve managed to poison public opinion around it over the past three years.
The real target is Social Security and Medicare. From a political standpoint, waging a war using those programs as hostage would be so wildly unpopular no sane or insane politician would dare choose that route. And so Obamacare has become the convenient stand-in, a cardboard stand-in for their real goals.
Representative Keith Ellison and other members of Congressional Progressive Caucus rally outside the US Capitol
against cuts to social insurance programs on October 3, 2013. Photo by George Zornick.
We’ve seen this movie before: Republicans force a showdown in Congress over funding the government, the debt ceiling or, in the present case, both. Then a “grand bargain” is proposed to solve the impasse—one that includes serious reductions to social insurance programs.
That’s just how the GOP would like the current drama to play out. Wednesday, National Review’s Robert Costa reported that House Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan are rallying nervous Republicans by telling them that while Obamacare may not end up getting defunded, GOP leadership is cooking up another big budget deal that includes cuts to the safety net so cherished by many conservative members. “It’s the return of the grand bargain,” one member told Costa. “Ryan is selling this to everybody; he’s getting back to his sweet spot,” said another.
In particular, Costa mentioned Chained CPI as one component of the emerging proposal. This, you may recall, is a cut to Social Security benefits dressed up as a ostensibly “more accurate” recalibration of the formula used to adjust benefits to inflation. (It’s not.)
Democrats, from the White House to Congress, are taking a hard line so far. President Obama reiterated this morning that he will not abide GOP hostage-taking, and wants a clean resolution to reopen the government and a clean increase of the debt ceiling. Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi are on the same page.
But Obama also said he’s happy to engage in a broad budget deal once the stalemate is resolved, and Reid sent Boehner a letter on Wednesday pledging the same.
This has left some progressives a little nervous—a debt-ceiling increase with the promise of a grand bargain and a grand bargain that includes a debt-ceiling increase is a distinction without much difference, except the notable removal of some leverage from the GOP side. And President Obama has repeatedly proposed Chained CPI in the past, and it would clearly be in play once during any broad discussions of a deficit reduction package.
President Barack Obama announced Monday that he is nominating Lanhee Chen, Mitt Romney’s former top policy adviser, to the Social Security Advisory Board.
The independent and bipartisan board advises the president, Congress and the Commissioner of Social Security on the program, but does not have any decision-making authority. Chen, who served as the Romney campaign’s policy director and is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, was deeply critical of the president’s management of federal entitlement programs during the campaign.
“On retirement programs, the President’s plan is laughable,” Chen wrote in a memo to reporters two weeks before election day. “With both Social Security and Medicare on the path to insolvency, the President has proposed to do nothing. The Social Security and Medicare Trustees have concluded that doing nothing – the President’s plan – will result in seniors seeing their Social Security benefits cut by 25% in 2033 and that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2024. As President-elect Obama acknowledged in early 2009, we can’t kick the can down the road any further. But rather than offering an honest proposal to protect and strengthen these programs, the President offers just more empty promises.”
Chen’s nomination follows Obama’s decision to appoint former Romney campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg as co-chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which is reviewing ways to make voting easier
Pennsylvania Department of Health officials are reminding residents that Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices throughout the state are open and providing services despite the federal government shutdown.
The Pennsylvania WIC program is expected to be able to continue normal operations “for a few weeks” because of funds that were carried forward from the previous year and additional food funds, including rebates, department Secretary Michael Wolf said in a news release.
Wolf said the department is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Gov. Tom Corbett’s office to develop a plan to avoid major service disruptions in the event of a long-term federal government shutdown.
As part of the long-term planning process, local WIC agencies were asked to submit an outline to the department that details steps to minimize administrative spending and ways to ensure minimal reductions to participant food benefits should the shutdown continue. The department will then coordinate plans and submit them for review to the USDA.
The Pennsylvania WIC program provides services including nutrition services, breastfeeding support, health care and social service referrals, and healthy foods, to about 250,000 recipients per month. The program’s 2013-14 federal budget was about $208 million.
WIC operates local offices in Aliquippa, Ambridge, Beaver Falls, Freedom and Midland.
Additional information is available online at www.pawic.com or by telephone at 800-942-9467. Local offices can be reached at 866-942-2778.
Late last night the federal government shut down its “nonessential” services as Congressional Republicans continued their attempt to undermine the health care reform law President Obama signed in 2010. The default mode on Capitol Hill these days tends toward paralysis and partisan strife, so pretty much everyone saw this coming.
The worst hit, at first glance, seem to be tourists — attractions under the purview of the National Park Service have closed for the time being — and federal employees who will have to stay home from work while their livelihoods are used as a political football, again. The Washington, D.C. city government, long maligned as incompetent, took forward-thinking steps to insulate itself from federal-level dysfunction. Most social assistance programs are safe for now.
But there is one program in serious danger: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides funds for healthy food, counseling and health care referrals to pregnant women, mothers and children under the age of five. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, research shows that the program is proven to ensure better health, nutrition and care services: “It is widely regarded as one of the most effective of all social programs.”
Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the program, released a memo summarizing the effects of a federal shutdown on food service programs. School lunches and food stamps are in the clear, at least through October. Not so for WIC:
No additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, including spend forward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help States – but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October.
Currently the USDA website reads, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.” The WIC program’s website is not functioning at all.