House Democrats said Thursday they will try to highlight GOP resistance to a higher minimum wage with a tactical maneuver meant to bring new attention to an issue they consider a political winner.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said her party will push a “discharge petition” when Congress returns from its recess on Feb. 24. If Democrats can persuade roughly two dozen Republicans to sign the petition, it would force GOP leaders to allow a House vote on the wage issue.
Most Republican lawmakers oppose a higher minimum wage. They say it prompts employers to cut down on hiring, a claim Democrats dispute.
It’s by no means clear Democrats can collect enough signatures in the House, where they hold 200 seats to the Republicans’ 232. Three seats are vacant.
Pelosi’s announcement, at a House Democratic retreat in rural Maryland, might displease immigration reform advocates who want priority given to a discharge petition on that subject. Pelosi said a discharge effort may come later for immigration, but “right now we’re starting with the minimum wage.”
Democrats say most Americans favor both a higher minimum wage and sweeping changes to immigration laws. They say Republican leaders thwart the public’s will by refusing to allow House votes on these topics.
President Barack Obama and many congressional Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
An AP-GfK Poll in January found 55 percent of U.S. adults favor an increase in the minimum wage. Just 21 percent oppose it, and 23 percent are neutral.
Democrats say it’s frustrating to see polls show widespread support for their proposals — including a higher minimum wage and an immigration overhaul — even as Republicans appear likely to retain their House majority and possibly gain control of the Senate in this year’s elections.
Some strategists want congressional Democrats to find new ways to underscore their differences with Republicans, and paint Republicans as obstructionists.
“The minimum wage is one of the illuminating contrasts we have,” Rep. Steve Israel, of New York, told reporters at the party’s retreat. He chairs the committee overseeing Democrats’ House races.
Earlier, Republicans dismissed the idea of Democrats getting enough petition signatures to force a House vote on a Senate immigration bill that would grant new pathways to legal status for millions of immigrants.
“This scheme has zero chance of success,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “A clear majority in the House understands that the massive Senate-passed bill is deeply flawed.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said he believes nearly all House Democrats would sign a petition seeking a vote on a higher minimum wage. If all 200 Democrats did so, they would need 17 Republicans to join them.
President Barack Obama should lose court challenges to his attempts to bypass Congress through the use of regulations or executive order, Karl Rove predicted Monday.
“These things tend to be litigated in court. And, so far, when they have been litigated, the president has tended to lose,” Rove, former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”
“I don’t see any part of the Constitution, or the amendments to it, that say the president has the right, if Congress is less popular than he is, to ignore their responsibilities to legislate, and his responsibility to execute, to faithfully execute, the law of the United States,” he said.
Story continues below video.
The White House had to defend in court appointments the president made to the National Labor Relations Board, Rove explained. The president justified the appointments, saying he had deemed Congress was in recess. The administration ultimately lost the case when it went to the Supreme Court.
Rove maintained the use of presidential authority always raised “contentious issues and arguments.” He predicted many of the president’s attempts to use regulations and executive orders to bypass Congress would end up in court.
“Some of these things, like the Keystone XL pipeline, or the NLRB appointments, or the EPA regulations, they’re likely to end up in court. And, the courts are going to have to be asked to adjudicate this dispute between the executive and the legislative (branches),” he said.
The president has limitations to his ability to act, and must stay within statutory guidelines, Rove explained. To do otherwise threatened the foundation of the nation’s laws.
“The president has to act within the statutory limits given to him by the United States Congress, or we are not a nation of laws. We’re not a nation with a constitution. We are simply an authoritarian regime. The president has to be very careful about this,” he said.
The House immigration bill should include a pathway to citizenship for those who are already here, former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert says.
“The whole formula for immigration reform can fall into place if two basic issues are solved,” Hastert, of Illinois, wrote in an opinion piece for Politico. “First, securing our borders so we know who is entering our country and for what purpose. Second, a legalization of those folks who are already here, many of whom have been here for a decade or more.”
And, Hastert explains, legalization means that there must be “a path to citizenship much like any other immigrant would have.”
But the country cannot just do nothing, he said. “The cost of inaction is high,” Hastert claims.
The United States has too much to gain economically, according to reports from the Congressional Budget Office and and the Bipartisan Policy Center that Hastert cites. The CBO predicted that Gross Domestic Product would increase 5.4 percent if the immigrants here were given citizenship over 20 years, and the BPC has said that immigration reform would reduce the federal deficit more than $1.2 trillion in the same amount of time.
According to Hastert, immigration reform is also necessary to fill jobs in a variety of sectors such as science and technology, agriculture, and manufacturing, where immigrants are needed.
“Immigration is necessary for our economic recovery,” he wrote. “We need a reasonable way to bring [immigrants] out of the shadows so that they can legally contribute to our economy.”
“Removing them is neither practical nor economically smart,” he added.
There are national security issues at stake, as well. If Homeland Security knows who is here, it will make it easier for “law enforcement to refocus their resources on removing individuals with criminal backgrounds.”
He also explains that embracing Latinos, which are expected to make up 30 percent of the population by 2050, is necessary for the political survival of the Republican Party.
“My own party must acknowledge this reality and embrace these ever-growing constituencies if it is to remain relevant in national elections,” Hastert concluded in his opinion piece.
From left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich
By Melanie Batley
A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama’s policies in an attempt to distance themselves from theincreasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.
“You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president’s State of the Union speech that wouldn’t have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.
Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline.
For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama’s insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.
“I don’t think that’s what he meant. I swear to God I don’t,” Manchin said in an interview with Politico. “Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people.”
Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration’s positions on coal and energy exports.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama’s energy policies “schizophrenic.”
Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico.
“I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we’ve gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish,” he said.
Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs.
“The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can,” Blunt told Politico.
“On the healthcare bill, it’s going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it’s not going to get better between now and Election Day.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Congress that new unilateral sanctions against Iran could upend sensitive international negotiations over its nuclear development, imploring lawmakers to work with the Obama administration in presenting a unified front to Tehran.
Echoing President Barack Obama’s deep concerns about another round of tough economic penalties, Clinton said any congressional action could undercut U.S. work with its allies as well as American influence with Russia and China in forcing Tehran to negotiate after years of inconclusive talks.
“Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution,” Clinton said. “As President Obama has said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table.”
Clinton offered her assessment in a three-page letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Levin’s office released the letter, dated Jan. 26, on Sunday.
Levin and several other committee chairmen have expressed a willingness to hold off on sanctions to give diplomatic efforts a chance. However, 59 Republicans and Democrats back legislation to impose a new round of penalties on Iran, maintaining that crippling economic sanctions forced Tehran to make concessions.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Iran agreed in November to slow its uranium enrichment program to a level that is far below what would be necessary to make a nuclear bomb. It also agreed to increased international inspections to give world leaders confidence that it is not trying to build weapons in secret.
In exchange, the U.S. and five other nations — Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — agreed to ease an estimated $7 billion worth of international sanctions against Iran’s crippled economy for a six-month period while negotiators try to broker a final settlement.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Clinton said the intelligence community has said new sanctions could undercut the chances for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.
“I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course,” said the former New York senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate.
In his State of the Union address this past week, Obama repeated his threat to veto any new Iran sanctions if Congress passes legislation.
Clinton, who said she repeatedly backed Iran sanctions during her eight years as senator, cautioned lawmakers.
“If the world judges — rightly or wrongly — that negotiations have collapsed because of actions in the United States Congress, even some of our closest partners abroad — to say nothing of countries like Russia and China — may well falter in their commitment. And without help from our partners in enforcing them, any new measures we put in place will not achieve maximum impact,” Clinton said.
Levin, who had written to Clinton Jan. 16 seeking her views, said her letter “is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations.”
Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, promised to go it alone by issuingeven more executive orders if Congress fails to pass laws he deems necessary.
“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos noted that the number of executive orders issued by Obama at this point in his presidency is fewer than those of the most recent two-term presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.
Ryan argued that the issue isn’t numbers, but scope.
“Executive orders are one thing, but executive orders that actually change the statute, that’s totally different,” Ryan said. He gave as an example Obama’s unilateral delay of some parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Still, Ryan doesn’t see impeachment proceedings over the issue, which he labeled a “dangerous trend.” Instead, he predicted court battles over individual incidents.
On others issues, Ryan:
Predicted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will continue to lead the Republican Governors Association despite his deepening troubles over the Bridge-gate scandal.
Said that despite internal GOP disagreement on immigration, the party does agree that it doesn’t trust Obama to enforce the law. He said Congress is unlikely to pass a bill this year to send to the president. Republicans want a secure border, interior security (a worker verification system and a visa tracking program), before the rest of law can take effect.
Said attaching policy to a debt limit bill is not a new approach, and that Congress should stop rubber stamping debt limit increases.
Defended comments he made that Pope Francis isn’t familiar with American capitalism because he is from Argentina, where “crony capitalism” is practiced. Francis is starting the debate on helping the poor, not ending, it, Ryan said. He admitted Francis wouldn’t back his budget proposal because “Popes don’t endorse budgets.”
Roberts has made similar calls for more money in the past.
“I would like to choose a fresher topic, but duty calls. The budget remains the single most important issue facing the courts,” he said.
The courts have been severely affected by government cost-cutting, Roberts said.
“The combined effects since July 2011 of flat budgets followed by sequestration reduced on-board court staffing levels by 3,100 (14 percent) to about 19,000 employees — the lowest staffing level since 1997, despite significant workload increases over that same period — and reduced federal defender offices staffing by 11 percent in fiscal year 2013 alone,” he said.
What would happen if the sequestration cuts continue? If Congress instead freezes court funding at sequester level, it “would lead to the loss of an estimated additional 1,000 court staff,” Roberts said.
“The first consequence would be greater delays in resolving civil and criminal cases. In the civil and bankruptcy venues, further consequences would include commercial uncertainty, lost opportunities and unvindicated rights. In the criminal venues, those consequences pose a genuine threat to public safety.”
Court officials are calling for $7.04 billion for fiscal year 2014, which they calculate at less than two-tenths of 1 percent of total federal outlays.
“In the coming weeks, and into the future, I encourage the president and Congress to be attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and avert the adverse consequences that would result from funding the judiciary below its minimal needs,” Roberts said.
“The judiciary continues to depend on the vision and statesmanship of our colleagues in the executive and legislative departments. It takes no imagination to see that failing to meet the judiciary’s essential requirements undermines the public’s confidence in all three branches of government.”
The judiciary system also is working to save money by ensuring any new space requested by a judicial circuit is offset by an equivalent reduction in the same fiscal year. The courts also are looking to reduce their overall space by 3 percent by the end of fiscal 2018.
“The only exceptions from these policies are new courthouses and repair and alterations projects specifically approved by Congress,” Roberts said.
On Nov. 20, he pleaded guilty to the charges against him and entered a voluntary rehabilitation program for treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse.
“My recovery is under way and ongoing,” he said. “I have and will continue to build a support system to rely on for the rest of my life. While in a voluntary rehabilitation program, I began a step-by-step process that will aid me in recovery one day at a time.”
He said his main struggle is with alcohol.
“To be clear, alcohol is the problem for me,” the Florida Republican said. “It was selfishly fun, but became an issue when it led to poor choices and missed opportunities.”
While he made it clear in his Facebook post that he plans to remain in office, Florida Republican leaders have said they want Radel to resign.
At least two Republican candidates have said they are ready to run in a special election if needed.
Just days after Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, recent polls reveal that Americans are losing trust in their clergy and that belief in the existence of God is on the decline. CBS/DC and the Associate Press reveal that researchers at Gallup found that 53 percent of Americans have lost trust in the clergy – the worst ratings in 40 years.
When a nation loses trust in clergy compromised through scandals, the people lose faith in God and government. The nation suffers spiritually, politically and economically when its clergy are compromised. The latest Harris poll confirms this.
Susan Jones of CNSNews.com, reporting on the Harris findings, writes, “A strong majority (74 percent) of U.S. adults say they believe in God, but that’s down from the 82 percent who expressed such a belief in earlier years. Belief in miracles, heaven and other religious teachings also declined in the latest poll, as follows:
68 percent believe in heaven, down from 75 percent;
68 percent believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God, down from 72 percent;
Gallup’s polling also revealed that Darwin’s theory of evolution had a resurgent of new converts – up 42 percent from 2005. When God is profaned by His priests, people turn to pseudoscience to find meaning to life. The societal fabric is not evolving but dissolving into an unfit culture in which no one can survive – fit or unfit.
Evolution is biological relativism – the antithesis to the absolute of divine creationism, which designed natural selection to be “after its kind” (Genesis 1:24). This is the expected natural outcome when society abandons the absolutes of God’s Word, both physical and spiritual, for moral relativism. This abandonment comes in the vacuum of sound reason created by a clergy who refuse to stand in their pulpits and the public square proclaiming the immutable Law of God.
As a result, God’s numbers are backsliding, the president’s numbers are in the tank – the lowest of any since Nixon (Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday) – while Congress is sharing the “bottom of the honesty and ethics ratings with lobbyists and car salespeople, the only three job professions to receive a single-digit rating.” Nicki Rossoll also reports that “Americans view members of Congress as some of the least honest and ethical professionals. But there’s a bit of good news for congressional lawmakers. One profession does rank lower: lobbyists.”
Any wonder the culture is in crisis, the economy collapsing and no one seems to have any solutions? America is being fundamentally changed, but who’s really to blame? No polling necessary here.
As the clergy goes, so goes the nation. It’s not the White House, Congress or Hollywood that’s responsible for America’s mess. The fault lies squarely at the foot of her pulpits. In the past 60 years, their voices have been silenced in the public square and their influence upon public policy absent – all in exchange for 30 pieces of tax-exempt silver proffered by the unconstitutional Johnson Amendment to the 1954 Senate tax overhaul bill.
America’s clergy have abdicated their roles as God’s “grand vindicators of the government of God.” They have perverted their prelacy to the role of executive administrator and CEO of their bi-coastal mega-churches, living in mega-mansion parsonages while feasting on the dainties of Babylon. Totally blind to the biblical worldview of their place and purpose for the nation, America’s clergy are no longer “sons of lightning and thunder,” but fair-weathered favorites on the talk-show circuit and friends to society’s darlings.
The Cross of Christ is the only hope for America. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently said, “The only hope for America is for her clergy to start preaching the Cross of Christ again.” He is right. If America is to be fundamentally transformed, it will be through the preaching of the hope found only through the Cross of Calvary. America’s next awakening will come at the foot of the Cross.
Rev. Charles Finney, the voice of the Great Awakening, challenged America’s clergy to proclaim the Cross some 140 years ago. His message is just as relevant today. “Has the offense of the Cross ceased, or is the Cross kept out of view? Has the holy law of God, with its stringent precept and its awful penalty become popular with unconverted men and women? Or is it ignored in the pulpit, and the preacher praised for that neglect of duty?”
Finney’s answer for America is not bipartisan cooperation on the debt-ceiling crisis, but rather that “we need more sons of thunder in the pulpit. We need men that will flash forth the law of God like livid lightning and arouse the consciences of men.”
Finney described the pulpiteers of the Great Awakening as “those old, stern, grand vindicators of the government of God (who) would have thundered and lightened till they had almost demolished their pulpits if any such immoralities had shown themselves under their instructions as are common in these days.”
Finney feared neither the press nor politicians’ reactions to his preaching. Political correctness, according to Finney, was biblical correctness. “Let us thunder forth the law and Gospel of God until our voices reach the capital of this nation, through our representatives in Congress. … Let us give the reporters of the press such work to do as will make their ears and the ears of their readers tingle.”
In response to today’s “seeker-friendly, hyper-grace gospel,” Finney’s thoughts: “Away with this milk-and-water preaching of a love of Christ that has no holiness or moral discrimination in it. … Christ crucified for the sins of the world is the Christ that the people need. Such a collapse of conscience in this land could never have existed if … our preaching had not in great measure fallen out.”
Finney summed up his message, “The Decay of Conscience,” in New York, Dec. 4, 1873, to America’s clergy: “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”
If America’s clergy neglect their godly role to government and society through complicity and compromise to such, we will have lost any hope for America’s next awakening. The only solution would be a new order of priests like that of Zadok and Abiathar who remained faithful to David (1 Chronicles 12:1, 28) while those at Shiloh remained politically correct but spiritually compromised to Saul. Zadok’s and Abiathar’s son’s (as opposed to Eli’s uncircumcised brood) reaped the reward of faithfulness to the anointing with their appointments to “minister unto the Lord” in the holy place (Ezekiel 44:15) of Solomon’s Temple. Those complicit, compromised and uncircumcised “ministers” were restricted to the outer court and needs of the people. They could not come near unto the Lord.
May America’s Zadoks and Abiathars come forth, recognize and take up the mantle of their ministry and lead us to the anointing of Zion and another great awakening.
Dan Cumminsis founding pastor of Bridlewood Church, Bullard, Texas, and originator of “Washington, A Man of Prayer,” an historical event to be held in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol on May 7, 2014, honoring the 225th inaugural anniversary of President George Washington. The website is http://www.WashingtonAManOfPrayer.com
On the eve of the expiration of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are stepping up pressure on Republicans to renew the program.
Top White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said in a statement issued on Friday that a failure to renew emergency jobless benefits would harm the economy and he urged Congress to move quickly to pass a short-term extension of the aid.
“While we remain disappointed that Congress did not heed the president’s call to extend emergency unemployment benefits for next year before the holidays, the president as well as the Democratic congressional leadership have made clear the importance of extending the benefits immediately upon Congress’s return,” Sperling said in a statement.
Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, that would extend the unemployment benefits for three months. He said passage of the temporary bill would allow time to consider an extension for all of 2014.
Without an extension, some 1.3 million unemployed Americans are scheduled to lose their federal jobless benefits on Saturday.
Under an emergency program created during President George W. Bush’s administration in 2008, federal benefits kick in for Americans who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. In many states, unemployment benefits run out after 26 weeks.
The federal jobless aid has been renewed every year since 2008. Many Republicans oppose an extension of jobless benefits, arguing the program was always intended to be temporary. They have also said an extension would add to the federal deficit unless it is offset by spending elsewhere in the budget.