When we started our second season back in January, all eyes were on the plans of new Republican House majority. With that in mind, our first episode was on an extremely insider issue: transparency provisions in the House rules package. As the year has progressed, however, disillusioned activists across the political spectrum began to seek larger, systemic reforms to a broken political system. In homage to an evolving political climate, we wrap up the season with perhaps our most “outsider” summary to date: the OCCUPIED constitutional amendment by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL19).
Deutch was inspired to act by the grievances at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street sensation – frustration with a political system corrupted by money and designed to advance the interests of large corporations and the super-rich. The amendment is the most far-reaching attempt to undo the corrosive effects of money in politics by getting at the roots. While we recently covered another proposed amendment by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD4) that would simply overturn Citizens United, this amendment also negates corporate personhood and essentially gives Congress and state legislatures the authority to enact whatever campaign finance reform measures they deem necessary.
While this proposal has virtually no chance of even receiving a hearing in the Republican-controlled House, it is a clarifying rhetorical measure as the most logical legislative answer to the demands of the Occupiers, stated or otherwise.
See below the fold for the one-pager and further links.
When the President and Congress failed to reach a budget deal several months ago, they created a “supercommittee” to get the job done. Hanging over that supercommittee’s head was what some had termed the “doomsday scenario,” a series of automatic spending cuts that would be triggered upon failure to produce a deal by November 23rd. Since leaders from both parties on that committee have announced failure, these cuts are now scheduled to go into effect in 2013.
This week, we take a look at another in a series of model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Voter ID Act. Make no mistake about it, this legislation was written to hack away at a very specific segment of the voting public. ALEC and its allies invoked the specter of voter fraud, a wholly manufactured crisis, to justify a series of measures designed to erect barriers to voting among Democratic-leaning demographic groups.
A couple weeks ago, S. 978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, was a relatively mundane bill. Aiming to crack down on illegal streaming and internet piracy, the legislation attracted little interest beyond the creative industry associations and the Internet freedom community. It passed the Senate Judiciary easily in June and appeared headed for the Senate floor.
Then, Justin Bieber spoke. Claiming repeatedly in a radio interview that bill sponsor Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) should be “locked up”, Bieber launched S. 978 firmly into the public spotlight. A key opponent organization had launched FreeBieber.org with the message that the Commercial Felony Streaming Act would have jailed the teen singer for posting his renditions of popular songs on YouTube, and Bieber’s comments attracted attention well beyond the core political community.
While the validity of FreeBieber.org’s specific claim is questionable, it does highlight the potentially troublesome vagueness of this legislation and provides a valuable window into the uglier side of the legislative process. As happens all too often Capitol Hill, S. 978 appears to have been crafted by industry interest groups and shepherded along by allied elected officials with little fanfare. Such scenarios leave the public limited opportunity for meaningful feedback, and the lack of checks and balances could lead to unintended consequences without further clarification. That said, it is highly unlikely that regulators would use the Commercial Felony Streaming Act to target YouTube users en masse.
UPDATE: A motion to proceed to debate on the Rebuild America Jobs Act, now numbered S. 1769, failed to achieve cloture on Thursday 11/3 by a vote of 51-49. All Republicans and two conservative members of the Democratic Caucus, Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), voted to kill the legislation.
When the Senate failed to proceed to debate on the American Jobs Act, Senator Harry Reid vowed to bring up each piece of the legislation individually. The Rebuild America Jobs Act represents the first such attempt and focuses on one of the more lauded areas of government spending and job creation: infrastructure.
This week, we take a look at Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Cain’s recent surge in the polls could be nothing more than the flavor-of-the-week dance that best describes the Republican primary to date. That being said, it is worth noting that his radical approach to the tax system strikes a frustrated chord with many Republican primary voters and helped bring his campaign out of single-digits.
The plan itself is simplistic and gimmicky, yet not well thought out, resulting in a de facto 25.38% national sales tax before deductions and dividends. But see for yourself in this week’s episode of 90 Second Summaries.
2010 was the first election in which we witnessed the true effect of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. On the night before the election, Congresswoman Donna Edwards said, “You can hear it on the radio ads and you can see it on the television, the independent spending that’s going on there that’s completely anonymous and, I think, it’s been very destructive.”
To that end, she introduced this week’s episode, H. J. Res 78, an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
This is the second part of our interview with Congressman Charles Rangel. In this segment, he discusses the Tea Party and how they have impacted the legislative process. Rep. Rangel has some choice words for them, and lays much of the blame for the current dysfunction at their feet. What do you think?
Two weeks ago, we released an episode on H.R. 2394, the Rebuilding America’s Schools Act sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel. We got a chance to sit down with Rep. Rangel, the third longest-serving member of the House from a New York City district where “Republican” is practically a dirty word, to discuss the bill and the larger context behind it.
As the interview covered a range of topics, we are releasing it in two parts. The first covers both his school modernization bill and the larger Progressive Caucus jobs plan. As you will see, Mr. Rangel chose to focus primarily on the latter, stressing that his legislation is but a small piece of a much larger puzzle.