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A view north from atop the U.S. Capitol dome shows Union Station and the Russell Senate Office Building during a media tour in Washington


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A view north from atop the U.S. Capitol dome shows the Russell Senate Office Building (R) and Union Station (2nd R) during a media tour of the dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 19, 2013.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The women of the Senate who led the fight to change how the military deals with sexual assault in its ranks are hailing passage of a comprehensive defense bill that now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the $632.8 billion bill that covers combat pay, new ships, aircraft and military bases. Drawing the greatest attention were provisions cracking down on perpetrators of sexual assault and rape.

The military’s handling of high-profile cases united Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate in a concerted effort to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with Senate women leading the fight. Estimates from the Pentagon that 26,000 members of the military may have been sexually assaulted last year, though thousands were afraid to come forward for fear of inaction or retribution, emboldened lawmakers to act.

“Today represents a huge win for victims of sexual assault, and for justice in America’s armed forces, but this is no finish line,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of seven women on the Armed Services Committee who pushed for the changes. “In the months and years ahead, vigilance will be required to ensure that these historic reforms are implemented forcefully and effectively.”

The legislation would strip military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and require that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal. The bill also would provide victims with legal counsel, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases, and criminalize retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault.

“Today we have taken a major, unprecedented step toward finally eliminating the plague of sexual assault in our nation’s military,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

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Congress Sends Sweeping Defense Bill to Obama

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington,Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

WASHINGTON — The women of the Senate who led the fight to change how the military deals with sexual assault in its ranks are hailing passage of a comprehensive defense bill that now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the $632.8 billion bill that covers combat pay, new ships, aircraft and military bases. Drawing the greatest attention were provisions cracking down on perpetrators of sexual assault and rape.

The military’s handling of high-profile cases united Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate in a concerted effort to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with Senate women leading the fight. Estimates from the Pentagon that 26,000 members of the military may have been sexually assaulted last year, though thousands were afraid to come forward for fear of inaction or retribution, emboldened lawmakers to act.

“Today represents a huge win for victims of sexual assault, and for justice in America’s armed forces, but this is no finish line,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of seven women on the Armed Services Committee who pushed for the changes. “In the months and years ahead, vigilance will be required to ensure that these historic reforms are implemented forcefully and effectively.”

The legislation would strip military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and require that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal. The bill also would provide victims with legal counsel, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases, and criminalize retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault.

“Today we have taken a major, unprecedented step toward finally eliminating the plague of sexual assault in our nation’s military,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Another member of the Armed Services panel, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said the special counsel “will help encourage victims to come forward to seek justice, and it will help ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes.”

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As Farm Bill Talks Resume, Who Will Fight for the Nation’s Hungry?

Proposals in both the House and Senate would see nutrition assistance to the nation’s neediest cut


– Jon Queally, staff writer

A food pantry at the United Methodist Church of Worth in Chicago. (Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune)


And while Republicans have continued to attack the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), which provides food assistance to the nation’s poorest families and individuals, the Democrats have played along by proposing less aggressive, but still damaging, levels of cuts to the essential program.

And because the last adjustment to the SNAP program expires at the end of this week, the pain caused by a feuding Congress willing to put hungry children and the elderly in the crosshairs amid an ongoing series of budget battles is about to get very real for some.

As Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, writes this week:

This Friday, 48 million people—including more than 21 million children—will see their food stamp (SNAP) benefits reduced. Instead of receiving an average of a buck-fifty for a meal, individuals in need of food assistance will get about $1.40. For families of three, the cut means they will receive $29 less in food stamps every month. […]

The SNAP cuts come at a time when 49 million people—about 14.5 percent of all US households—are food insecure. That means they don’t have enough money to meet their basic food needs, and don’t necessarily know where their next meal is coming from. The Institute of Medicine already demonstrated the inadequacies of the SNAP allotment for hungry families even before this cut.

What are we to make of this—the timing of the cut, the lack of discussion about it on the Hill, and the fact that it will deliver yet another blow to people who are already among the most vulnerable citizens in our nation?

It all points to the same hard truth we see time and again: when it comes to responding to the struggles of the more than one in three Americans who are living below twice the poverty line—on less than about $36,600 annually for a family of three—we prefer to look the other way.

But as the conference committee comes together Wednesday, as McClatchy reports, deeper cuts seem likely:

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would cut food stamps by $39 billion out of a projected $800 billion over 10 years. In addition, the House SNAP provision would require able-bodied adults without children to work or volunteer for 20 hours a week to receive federal assistance.

The Democratic-held Senate’s farm bill also would cut food stamps, but by $4.5 billion over a decade. The Senate plan wouldn’t add work requirements.

As Willy Blackmore, food policy editor as the TakePart.com, writes:

We won’t know anytime soon which terrible cut will prevail: the $4 billion cut to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program preferred by the Senate or the $39 billion thrashing of food stamps passed by the House. But one thing is certain: Funding for SNAP will drop starting on Friday, and all recipients will receive fewer benefits.

Among the progressive lawmakers trying to avert the disaster, Rep. Jim McGovern confessed to Blackmore that there were no good legislative options given the current climate in Washington. And because the current elevated funding for SNAP was written with a vague sunset clause when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or stimulus) was enacted in 2009, McGovern says those reductions are now an “inevitable reality.”

“What we absolutely should not do is make the situation even worse by piling on additional cuts in the context of the farm bill,” he adds. “As a member of the farm bill conference committee, I will fight with every ounce of energy I have to prevent additional cuts from happening.”

For Blackmore, however, Democrats should receive a large portion of the blame the current mess. For not better securing the improved funding for SNAP when they had the chance and because now they have capitulated by agreeing with Republicans that some level of cuts are warranted, he argues a great disservice to the nation’s poor has been done.

“The loss of stimulus funding,” writes Blackmore, “will amount to a $5 billion reduction in SNAP in 2014, and $6 billion in 2015 and 2016 combined. Congress’s epic $39 billion cut would be spread out over the course of 10 years, if it somehow manages to become law. And that would come on top of this reduction, which is, in essence, a Democrat-approved cut that’s 1/3 of the size of the House’s slash-and-burn approach to SNAP.”

Across the country, poverty assistance organizations and food pantries are bracing for the cuts, but in Washington, DC, it remains unclear what powerful voices will take a stand for the nation’s hungry and most vulnerable.

As Kaufmann laments, the drive to cut food stamps

all points to the same hard truth we see time and again: when it comes to responding to the struggles of the more than one in three Americans who are living below twice the poverty line—on less than about $36,600 annually for a family of three—we prefer to look the other way. Even as the interests of low-income people and the middle-class converge—for example, the need for good jobs and fair wages, access to continuing education, a more equitable economy where 95 percent of the gains don’t go to the top 1 percent, and a safety net that is available in tough times or when jobs pay lousy wages—we still find that a SNAP cut like this can occur with hardly a whisper of protest (outside of the advocacy community) at a time when hunger is widespread.


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  • Investors.com

A Tyrant’s Dream: Congress Cedes Control Of Federal Debt

 Posted 10/18/2013 05:50 PM ET

The bargain rushed through Congress on Wednesday night clobbers the U.S. Constitution. It shifts control over the debt ceiling from Congress to the president, in violation of Article 1, Section 8, and pushes the nation toward a slippery slope of allowing the president unlimited power to borrow.

Article 1, Section 8, states that “Congress shall have the Power To lay and collect Taxes … to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; . .. To borrow Money on the credit of the United States … ”

Until 1917, the president had to ask Congress’ permission for each borrowing and frequently acquiesced to conditions. That year, Congress devised the debt ceiling, which gave the president flexibility to borrow up to a certain amount in order to fund a world war.

Ever since then, presidents have come to Congress once or twice a year for a debt-ceiling hike. Until this year, Congress had never abdicated control over the nation’s indebtedness.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can’t surrender its powers to another branch of government or change how laws are made (INS v. Chadha, 1983). But that’s what the deal concocted Wednesday night does.

Instead of raising the debt ceiling, the Default Prevention Act of 2013 suspends it and shifts power to the president to determine how much the nation should borrow.

Fiscal Failing

Congress’ check on borrowing is so diminished as to be laughable. It will now require a two-thirds vote — a supermajority — in both houses to “disapprove” the president’s decision on what the debt ceiling should be. No real negotiating, as all previous presidents have had to do.

This is no more constitutional than if Congress ceded its taxing power to the president, telling Obama that he could impose whatever taxes he wants unless two-thirds of both houses disapprove.

The Default Prevention Act of 2013 puts the president in the driver’s seat instead of Congress. It was done for the first time last January, at the urging of now former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. It moves the nation dangerously close to the Democratic Party’s goal of eliminating the debt ceiling permanently — a dictator’s dream.

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Ending the Next Debt Ceiling Crisis


Posted: 10/22/2013 5:18 pm





It’s time to eliminate the legal authority of a single House of Congress to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States. The recent crisis shows that Tea Party Republicans continue to view the debt limit as a negotiating lever to extract political concessions each time our bills come due — repeatedly driving the country to the edge of the fiscal cliff, then leaving it up to the grown-ups to steer clear of disaster at the last second.


Yet to allow radical factions to retain their abstract right to precipitate debt-limit crises is very damaging. Investors will demand a premium on Treasury bonds to compensate them for the risk that some future stand-off will spin out of control. In the longer run, the underlying uncertainty will undermine the central position of the dollar in the monetary system, depriving the country of the great economic advantages that flow from issuing the world’s reserve currency. In contrast, a decisive effort to put our house in order will establish that Washington is determined to avoid future fiascos.


This is the point of a bill I introduced that changes the rules of the debt-limit game. Under the reformed procedures, the president would announce, on an annual basis, the increase required to avoid default. Congress would retain the power to reject the president’s initiative by a simple majority vote of both Houses — and if the president responded with a veto, two-thirds majorities could still insist on ultimate control. In restricting its power to play politics on this issue, however, Congress would be redeeming the Fourteenth Amendment’s command that “[t]he validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.”


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Oct 17, 2013

Chuck Hagel

The government shutdown cost the Defense Department at least $600 million in lost productivity and left DoD at funding levels that could force layoffs next year for the furloughed civilian personnel who just returned to work, Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale said Thursday.

“We haven’t decided [on layoffs],” Hale said. “We’re going to have to get smaller – that will mean fewer civilians. We’re going to get smaller – I can’t tell you how much.”

Hale and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at Thursday’s Pentagon briefing their major concern was the impact on the morale of the uniformed military and the civilian workforce from the repeated political cliffhangers on fiscal matters and the Congressional gridlock over budgets.

“I’m a lot more worried about the morale effects,” Hale said. Many civilian personnel now have the attitude that “I’m not so sure I want to work for this government,” he said.

Hagel said the uncertainty was brought home to him in one of his recent private meetings with enlisted troops.

One of the troops told Hagel that his wife wanted to know if their family had a future in the military.

“Do we have a future? What is the future for me as an E-5,” Hagel was asked.

Hagel said he did not have a good answer for the soldier, partly because the last-minute agreement in Congress that ended the shutdown and lifted the debt ceiling “did not remove the shadow of uncertainty that has been cast over our department.”

Hagel referred to the continuing resolution passed by Congress that left the Defense Department at current funding levels through mid-January while also facing another $52 billion in cuts under the Budget Control Act’s sequestration process.

Veterans groups echoed the warnings issued by Hale and Hagel.

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Think furloughs are done? Think again. Lasting shutdown could result in Pentagon sending workers back home

By Leada Gore | lgore@al.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 14, 2013 at 5:45 AM, updated October 14, 2013 at 7:33 AM

furlough notice for mr2

Think furloughs are over for most Department of Defense civilian workers? Think again.

Most of the DOD’s civilian workforce was furloughed starting Oct. 1 when Congress couldn’t reach a new appropriations deal before the start of the new fiscal year. Ninety-percent of those workers were recalled a week later after the Pentagon used a provision of the Pay Our Military Act to bring back employees whose positions directly supported military personnel.

However, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said an ongoing shutdown could tie the hands of those who are back on the job and make it impossible to do their work. If that happens, furloughs could begin again.

“The act provides appropriations for personnel; it does not provide appropriations for equipment, supplies, materiel, and all the other things that the department needs to keep operating efficiently,” Hagel wrote in his memo recalling civilian employees. “While the act permits the Department of Defense to bring many of its civilian employees back to work, and to pay them, if the lapse of appropriations continues, many of these workers will cease to be able to do their jobs.”

The cutbacks could be particularly severe for those working in acquisitions, contracts and logistics, as all but essential purchases are on hold.


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                                                      Image Source  :  Wikimedia . Org

         United States Department of Veterans Affairs; Veterans Day National Committee


 Rep. Michaud Condemns Use of Veterans as Political Pawns


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Mike Michaud (ME-02), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, spoke on the House floor today during debate on H.J.Res. 72, a bill that partially funds VA operations and furthers the standoff over the government shutdown. Michaud has previously spoken out against piecemeal approaches pursued by Republican leaders.
“This House bill, like the others before them, will not be considered by the Senate and the President has said he will veto it. Instead of waging a PR war and wasting time on bills that will go nowhere, House Republicans should pursue a solution to the shutdown that could actually pass both chambers and be signed by the President,” said Michaud.
In a letter sent to Congress today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, and Paralyzed Veterans of America called on Congress to provide the full year’s funding for all veterans programs, adding that “funding the operations of the VA through short-term continuing resolutions (CRs) or other stop-gap measures are not acceptable solutions.”
“Congress must stop using veterans in this partisan game and end this shutdown now,” said Michaud.

Michaud’s remarks on the House floor today, as prepared for delivery, can be found below:


164 Democrats Vote Against Funding Veterans’ Benefits

HJ Res. 72

Vote summary: 264-164. Failed (required 2/3 majority).

H J RES 72      2/3 YEA-AND-NAY      1-Oct-2013      7:44 PM
QUESTION:  On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass
BILL TITLE: Making continuing appropriations for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes

Yeas Nays PRES NV
Republican 231 1
Democratic 33 164 3
TOTALS 264 164   4

This bill would have restored funding for American veterans’ benefits. The 164 Democrats listed on this page don’t think veterans’ benefits are important enough to pay for. These 164 Democrats (no Republican voted against the bill) voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits.

Click the tweet [links] to ask them why.

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Harry Reid blocks funding for veterans programs, national parks


Senate Democrats blocked four resolutions to fund government programs, including paying the National Guard and opening national parks, as Republicans offered the limited measures in an attempt to win the government shutdown fight by financing popular programs and leaving those they oppose untouched.

“Unbelievably, today Senate Democrats went on record to oppose funding for National Guard and Reserve salaries, veterans’ services, lifesaving medicine and cures, and national parks and museums,” Senate Republican Conference chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said in a release following the procedural battle.

“Congress unanimously passed a bill to ensure active-duty military personnel are paid during this lapse in government funding, and it’s unclear why Senate Democrats wouldn’t pass similar measures to fund these important services,” Thune said.

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Military keeps Camp David open, cuts NFL, baseball coverage to troops overseas


President Obama has visited the Navy-run presidential retreat Camp David in central Maryland only 32 times, but it is being kept open during the government shutdown for his entertainment and security at the same time the Pentagon is cutting sports coverage to hundreds of thousands of troops around the world.

A phone call to the retreat found it open, confirming a TMZ report.

Camp David is one of the most highly secure areas in the nation and provides the president with a safe haven. The president has been known to shoot skeet at Camp David, which he most recently used for his 52nd birthday, according to CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller.

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Pelosi, Pingree and Michaud vote against funding for veterans benefits


Reps. Michael Michaud (left) and Chellie Pingree (right) voted Tuesday against continuing funding for veterans benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid the shutdown turmoil in the nation’s capital city, 33 House Democrats crossed party lines Tuesday night to support a GOP measure to restore funding for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014.

The resolution failed (264 – 164) to get the two-thirds vote threshold required for passage in the House under a suspension of the rules. Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to help defeat the resolution.

The failure of the measure offers little assurance to veterans, whose benefits have been jeopardized by the uncertainty of partisan chaos in grid-locked D.C. Although October’s benefit checks have already gone out, a prolonged shutdown could place November’s payments in doubt. Moreover, the backlog of veterans benefits claims, which only recently has begun to shrink, will certainly grow since many VA staffers have been furloughed.

The vote is especially problematic for Michaud, who has abdicated his congressional seat to run for governor, and who has made veterans affairs the signature issue of his decade in Congress. Michaud’s vote also runs contrary to statements he made on Tuesday regarding appropriations for veterans benefits in light of the partial federal shutdown.

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Oct 04, 2013

va capitol dome 428x285

Four days into a federal government shutdown that has suspended or curtailed services to hundreds of thousands of veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs still cannot say if it backs legislation — first filed in February — that would provide the entire agency full funding a year in advance.

Though the identical House and Senate bills would not have guaranteed funding for all VA services for 2014 even it had passed, backers said the current shutdown is evidence the measure is needed.

“It wouldn’t have stopped [this] but if it was the law of the land … we would not be in this position [in the future],” a Senate staffer familiar with the legislation told Military.com.

But a VA spokeswoman said the department is not ready to take a view one way or the other on the proposal because the administration first needs to look at the impact across the entire government.

“Only in the context of such a broad review could the administration offer an opinion on making such a change for the VA,” spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said. “We cannot therefore offer a position … at this time.”

On Tuesday, the House passed the Honoring our Promise to America’s Veterans Act, which would ensure veterans receive VA disability compensation, pension, GI Bill and other benefits should the shutdown last an extended period. It’s unclear if it will pass in the Senate.

House lawmakers appeared taken aback in July when Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Robert Snyder made the same case.

“I am not saying VA is against it,” he said. “I’m saying we don’t have a position right now.”

House Bill 813 and Senate 932 called for discretionary spending accounts — those used for things like disability claims processing, VA construction, and veterans’ call centers — to be funded a year in advance. First filed by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, it is modeled after legislation passed in 2009 that enabled full funding of all VA healthcare programs a year in advance.

It is for that reason all VA medical centers and healthcare operations are up and running regardless of the shutdown. The 2014 appropriations were included in the FY 2013 budget.

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Government Shutdown FAQ for Veterans

Posted: 09/30/2013 6:38 pm

Last Updated: 17:30 October 4th with new information regarding Guard and Reserve Drill and the GI Bill living stipend–

At IAVA we’ve heard from a number of veterans concerned about the impact of a possible government shutdown. The following information is based on the latest guidance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We will update as new information becomes available.

The federal government has officially shut down, leaving just enough resources to cover the essential services of the government. While veterans may be more protected than other constituencies, a government shutdown does not bode well for top priorities within the veterans’ community.

What if I have a doctor’s appointment or need to go to the VA hospital during the shutdown?

Hospitals should be running normally, or close to normal. VA health care is protected. In 2009, Congress passed a law to fund the VA one year in advance. This allows the VA health care to plan ahead and ensures that VA health care is funded for an additional year beyond the government shut down. All VA medical appointment and prescription drug phone lines will be active during the shutdown. The Veterans Crisis Line will also be protected from a shutdown.

Advance funding for VA health care was the centerpiece of IAVA’s Storm the Hill efforts in 2009, and the current shutdown debate shows how critical our efforts were. That is why IAVA supports the Congressional bill HR. 813 / S. 932 to extend advanced funding to the whole VA and avoid any problems with health care and benefits in the future.

What about my VA disability, pension, or GI Bill? Will I still get those?

All payments for the month of October are already out. VA benefits are protected and should go out during a shutdown. However, the VA recently announced that if the shutdown lasts longer than 2-3 weeks, the VA might not have enough cash on hand to pay benefits in November.

Does that mean that I won’t get my benefits in November?

Possibly. The VA has not given any specifics on what will happen if the shutdown continues for the next few weeks, and they run out of cash on hand. IAVA will keep pushing for more information and get it to you as soon as possible.

Why was my GI payment less than the full amount?

Many of the education calls IAVA is receiving concern the Monthly Living Allowance. Though payments have been approved for October, many veterans and family members are concerned about the amounts of their checks this month. A key reason for the smaller payments, particularly at the beginning of a new semester is that all benefits are prorated for a student’s rate of pursuit or number of classes relative to what is considered full-time for that institution. So part-time students will have their living allowance prorated based on how many classes they are taking. For example, if a student who is taking 7 credits at a school that considers 12 credits full time, that student will receive 60% of the normal living allowance rate. In order to receive any percentage of the allowance, students must be enrolled in at least 1 credit hour above half time, and must not currently be on active duty orders. See what percentage of benefits you should receive by visiting here.

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NBC News

The House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.

Approximately 800,000 government employees have been furloughed during the shutdown, although the Pentagon announced Saturday that it will call 300,000 of its furloughed civilian employees back to work.

Although the White House has said it “strongly supports” the legislation, it’s unclear how the Senate will proceed on the measure. The upper chamber was not expected to vote on it Saturday, and the Senate will not be in session Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that it is “cruel” to promise pay in the future but not allow federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.

“It’s really cruel to tell workers they’ll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open the government,” he said. “Let’s open the government.”

Reid said the message being sent to federal workers is: “Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want to do, because we won’t let you work.”

Throughout the federal government, workers deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive back pay.

After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures, but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there was no guarantee that Congress would act..

During the budget stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse – like national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should instead be fully reopened.

The  back pay measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which has one of the country’s highest populations of federal workers.

“The issue is fairness,” Moran said on the House floor. “It’s just wrong for hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they’re going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether they’re going to be able to provide for their families.”

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.

Read  More Here

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GOP Congressman Makes Park Ranger Apologize for Shutdown


Published on Oct 3, 2013

In an astounding confrontation that took place yesterday at the World War II Memorial in DC, a Tea Party congressman from Texas appeared to blame the Park Service for denying veterans access to the facility — and then made a Park Ranger apologize for the shutdown.

“How do you look at them and … deny them access?” Rep. Randy Neugebauer asked the unidentified Ranger in an incredible exchange that was caught on camera by NBC Washington.

In fact, the Park Service has been invoking the First Amendment in order to allow vets into the memorial despite the shutdown making it illegal for the department to do so.

“It’s difficult,” the Ranger replied. “Well, it should be difficult,” scorned the congressman. “It is difficult,” the Ranger repeated. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” said Neugebauer. “I’m not ashamed,” the Ranger retorted.

“You should be,” sneered Neugebauer.

The good news is that, despite the GOP’s best efforts to divert blame to literally anybody else, most Americans know full well who’s truly to blame.

A just-released CBS News poll found that 44% fault the Republicans for the shutdown, while 35% fault Obama and the Dems.

Meanwhile, a whopping 72% disapprove of holding the entire budget hostage over Obamacare, including nearly 50% of all Republicans surveyed.

The day before he was taped harassing a Park Ranger for doing her job, Neugebauer went on The Chad Hasty Show to state that he will keep the government shut down for “as long as it takes” to ensure that Obamacare is not funded, claiming it was the will of the American people.

NBC Washington

Congressman Confronts Park Ranger Over Closed WWII Memorial

By Mark Segraves
|  Thursday, Oct 3, 2013

Conflict over the responsibility for the government shutdown got personal at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Wednesday when a member of Congress confronted a U.S. Park Service Ranger over access to the closed park land.

The congressman was Randy Neugebauer, a Republican representing Texas. He confronted the ranger in the middle of a crowd of tourists as she was keeping most of the public out of the closed World War II memorial.

The Park Service has been allowing World War II vets who have traveled from all over the country to enter the memorial, even though it’s closed during the government shutdown; the rangers say they are exercising their First Amendment rights as they let the veterans in.

But they are keeping the rest of the public out of the facility, which is officially closed. And that did not sit well with the congressman, reported News4’s Mark Segraves, who witnessed the confrontation.

“How do you look at them and… deny them access?” said Neugebauer. He, with most House Republicans, had voted early Sunday morning to pass a funding measure that would delay the Affordable Care Act, a vote that set up a showdown with the Senate and President Barack Obama. With the parties unable to agree on how to fund the federal government, non-essential government functions shut down Tuesday.


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Published on Oct 3, 2013

The partial shutdown of the federal government has entered its third day. More than 800,000 federal workers are furloughed, and numerous governmental programs have been forced to stop running. For example, the government shutdown has already caused as many as 19,000 children to lose access to Head Start. Many recipients of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, more commonly known as WIC, will lose assistance. As negotiations remain stalled, Imara Jones of Colorlines.com looks at who is being hardest hit by the shutdown.


Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work

A government shutdown starting Tuesday, Oct. 1, is now upon us. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on a bill to fund the government, and time has run out.

The photograph is cleverly shot to make it look like the gates of the federal government are literally closing. Neat, eh? (The Washington Post)

The photograph is cleverly shot to make it look like the gates of the federal government are literally closing. Neat, eh? (The Washington Post)

So… it’s shutdown time. Let’s take a look at how this will work.

Not all government functions will simply evaporate come Oct. 1 — Social Security checks will still get mailed, and veterans’ hospitals will stay open. But many federal agencies will shut their doors and send their employees home, from the Environmental Protection Agency to hundreds of national parks.

Here’s a look at how a shutdown will work, which parts of the government will close, and which parts of the economy might be affected.

Wait, what? Why is the federal government on the verge of shutting down?

The fiscal crises will continue until morale improves. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). (Scott Applewhite/AP)

Short answer: There are wide swaths of the federal government that need to be funded each year in order to operate. If Congress can’t agree on how to fund them, they have to close down. And, right now, Congress can’t agree on how to fund them.

To get a bit more specific: Each year, the House and Senate are supposed to agree on 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal agencies and set spending priorities. Congress has become really bad at passing these bills, so in recent years they’ve resorted to stopgap budgets to keep the government funded (known as “continuing resolutions”). The last stopgap passed on March 28, 2013, and ends on Sept. 30.

In theory, Congress could pass another stopgap before Tuesday. But the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House are at odds over what that stopgap should look like. The House passed a funding bill over the weekend that delayed Obamacare for one year and repealed a tax on medical devices. The Senate rejected that measure. They voted a few more times and still no agreement. So… we’re getting a shutdown.

Does a shutdown mean everyone who works for the federal government has to go home?

Not exactly. The laws and regulations governing shutdowns separate federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential.” (Actually, the preferred term nowadays is “excepted” and “non-excepted.” This was tweaked in 1995 because “non-essential” seemed a bit hurtful. But we’ll keep things simple.)

The Office of Management and Budget recently ordered managers at all federal agencies to conduct reviews to see which of their employees fall into each of these two categories. If a shutdown hits, the essential workers stick around, albeit without pay. The non-essential workers have to go home after a half-day of preparing to close shop.

Which parts of government stay open?

Air traffic control stays open. (Jim Weber/AP)

Air traffic control stays open. (Jim Weber/AP)

There are a whole bunch of key government functions that carry on during a shutdown, including anything related to national security, public safety, or programs written into permanent law (like Social Security). Here’s a partial list:

— Any employee or office that “provides for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property.” That means the U.S. military will keep operating, for one. So will embassies abroad.

— Any employee who conducts “essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property.” So, for example: Air traffic control stays open. So does all emergency medical care, border patrol, federal prisons, most law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system, operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.

— Agencies have to keep sending out benefits and operating programs that are written into permanent law or get multi-year funding. That means sending out Social Security checks and providing certain types of veterans’ benefits. Unemployment benefits and food stamps will also continue for the time being, since their funding has been approved in earlier bills.

— All agencies with independent sources of funding remain open, including the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Reserve.

— Members of Congress can stick around, since their pay is written into permanent law. Congressional staffers however, will also get divided into essential and non-essential, with the latter getting furloughed. Many White House employees could also get sent home.

Do these “essential” employees who keep working get paid?

The 1.3 million or so “essential” civilian employees who stay on could well see their paychecks delayed during the shutdown, depending on the timing. They should, however, receive retroactive pay if and when Congress decides to fund the government again.

The 1.4 million active-service military members, meanwhile, will get paid no matter how long the shutdown lasts. That’s because the House and Senate specifically passed a bill to guarantee active-duty military pay even when the government is closed. Obama signed it into law Monday night.

So which parts of government actually shut down?

Closed! Well, unless Arizona wants to pay to operate it. (Ron Watts / Corbios)

Closed! Well, unless Arizona wants to pay to operate it. (Ron Watts / Corbios)

Everything else, basically. It’s a fairly long list, and you can check out in detail which activities the agencies are planning to halt in these contingency plans posted by each agency. Here are a few select examples:

Health: The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering hotline calls about medical questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop its seasonal flu program and have a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.”

Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development will not be able to provide local housing authorities with additional money for housing vouchers. The nation’s 3,300 public housing authorities will also stop receiving payments, although most of these agencies have enough cash on hand to provide rental assistance through the end of October.

Immigration: The Department of Homeland Security will no longer operate its E-Verify program, which means that businesses will not be able to check on the legal immigration status of prospective employees during the shutdown.

Law enforcement: Although agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency will continue their operations, the Justice Department will suspend many civil cases for as long as the government is shut down.

Parks and museums: The National Park Service will close more than 400 national parks and museums, including Yosemite National Park in California, Alcatraz in San Francisco, and the Statue of Liberty in New York. The last time this happened during the 1995-96 shutdown, some 7 million visitors were turned away. (One big exception was the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which stayed open only because Arizona agreed to pick up the tab.)

Regulatory agencies: The Environmental Protection Agency will close down almost entirely during a shutdown, save for operations around Superfund sites. Many of the Labor Department’s regulatory offices will close, including the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (The Mine Safety and Health Administration will, however, stay open.)

Financial regulators. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees the vast U.S. derivatives market, will largely shut down. A few financial regulators, however, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, will remain open.

(Small parts of) Social Security: The Social Security Administration will retain enough staff to make sure the checks keep going out. But the agency won’t have enough employees to do things like help recipients replace their benefit cards or schedule new hearings for disability cases.

Visas and passports: The State Department says it will keep most passport agencies and consular operations open so long as it has the funds to do so, although some activities might be interrupted. (For instance, “if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, the facility may become unsupported.”)

During the previous shutdown in 1995-’96, around 20,000 to 30,000 applications from foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day. This time around, the State Department is planning to continue processing visas through the shutdown, since those operations are largely funded by fees collected.

Veterans: Some key benefits will continue and the VA hospitals will remained open. But many services will be disrupted. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings.

What’s more, if the shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said that it may not have enough money to pay disability claims and pension payments. That could affect some 3.6 million veterans.

Women, Infants, and Children: The Department of Agriculture will cut off support for the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals. The program reaches some 9 million Americans. The USDA estimates most states have funds to continue their programs for “a week or so,” but they’ll “likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period” — emergency funds may run out by the end of October.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) has a list of other possible effects of a shutdown. Funds to help states administer unemployment benefits could get disrupted, IRS tax-refund processing for certain returns would be suspended, farm loans and payments would stop, and Small Business Administration approval of business loan guarantees and direct loans would likely cease.

Would the city of Washington D.C. be affected?

D.C.’s garbage collection stops during a shutdown. (The Washington Post)

Only if the shutdown goes on longer than a few weeks. In theory, the District of Columbia is supposed to shut down all but its most essential services during a government shutdown. But Mayor Vincent Gray has said that he will label all city services “essential” and use a cash reserve fund to keep everything going for as long as possible.

Some background: The District of Columbia is the only city barred from spending funds during a federal government shutdown, save for a few select services. During the 1995-’96 shutdown, the city was only able to keep police, firefighters and EMS units on duty. Trash collection and street sweeping came to a stop until Congress finally intervened.

This time, however, the District is taking a more defiant stance. Gray has recently said that he will declare all city services “essential” and keep them running. And the city has $144 million in funds to carry out services like trash collection and street sweeping for two weeks. If the shutdown drags on longer, however, it’s unclear what will happen…

How many federal employees would be affected by a government shutdown?

Half of you go home. (Jeffrey MacMillan / For The Washington Post)

Half of you go home. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post)

The government estimates that roughly 800,000 federal workers will get sent home if the government shuts down.

That leaves about 1.3 million “essential” federal workers, 1.4 million active-duty military members, 500,000 Postal Service workers, and other employees in independently-funded agencies who will continue working.

Can you give me an agency-by-agency breakdown of the impacts?

Yes. We’ve been compiling a detailed list here at the Post, but here’s a brief overview, showing how many employees are furloughed, and examples of who stays and who goes:

Department of Commerce: 87 percent of the agency’s 46,420 employees would be sent home. (The Weather Service would keep running, for instance, but the Census Bureau would close down.)

Department of Defense: 50 percent of the 800,000 civilian employees would be sent home while all 1.4 million active-duty military members would stay on. (Environmental engineers, for instance, would get furloughed, and the agency could not sign any new defense contracts.)

Department of Energy: Thanks to multi-year funding, parts of the agency can actually operate for “a short period of time” after Sept. 30. But eventually 69 percent of the agency’s 13,814 employees will be sent home. (Those in charge of nuclear materials and power grids stay. Those conducting energy research go home.)

Read More Here


Reason . com

Democrats Want to Use Government Shutdown For Leverage on Debt Ceiling

open for business if not for youucumari/foter.comSenate Democrats apparently consider a prolonged partial government shutdown an advantage in the upcoming debate over the debate ceiling. The Hill reports:

Previously, Democrats were resistant to such an idea. That was at least in part because President Obama is refusing to negotiate on the debt limit. But a Democratic senator told The Hill this week that is no longer a concern, saying the White House can effectively deal with the GOP’s tactics.

Democrats are eager to deal with the debt limit now, when polls show most of the public blames Republicans for the shutdown. They contend it would be difficult for the GOP to make additional demands linked to the debt limit while they’re embroiled in a crisis over a six-weekend spending stopgap.

On the second day of the partial government shutdown, Republicans are already working to put themselves on the record in favor of reopening vital government services, like the national parks and the National Institutes of Health. Nick Gillespie noted earlier today the national parks and landmarks cost the feds at least $2.75 billion a year. With the government spending about twice as much as it collects in revenue, fiscally-minded lawmakers should be focusing on how to cut costs, and spending. The closure of the national parks is largely for show, appearing to be an attempt by the executive branch to exaggerate the effects of the partial shutdown, a tactic known as Washington Monument Syndrome.

Read More Here


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I have a better  question.  Why is any  member  of the  Government (  That  includes  the  President )  getting paid during  a government shutdown. There  is plenty  of blame to go around.  Not to mention owning up to their responsibilities.    Perhaps it is time they  all paid the  piper.  A bit  of hardship would change the way they  look at  things.  And  would go a long way  in  helping them understand  how  their petty  differences and partisanship  affects The People.   As it  stands they  have nothing to lose and they  still get  paid no matter how lousy a job  they do.  That  is unrealistic and quite unfair.  IMHO


~Desert Rose~






Why is Congress getting paid during government shutdown?

Credit: Getty Images

Members of the House of Representatives leave the U.S. Capitol after passing a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government that would also delay enrollment in the Affordable Care Act for one year September 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.



Posted on October 1, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Updated today at 11:41 AM




The majority of blame for the U.S. Government shutdown is being put on the shoulders of Congress. However, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will still be paid.

Their pay is protected by the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” reads the amendment, which was passed in 1992.

USA Today reports that the point of the law was to prevent members of Congress from voting a pay raise for themselves. But, it also protects them from taking a pay cut.


Read More Here


CBS News


Blame game starts with no end in sight for government shutdown


Rebecca Kaplan /



Updated at 1:30 P.M.


“Government is closed, because of the irrationality of what is going on on the other side of the Capitol,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor of the Senate Tuesday morning. “They’d rather see the government shut down than do anything to protect the American people from the consequences of Obamacare,” countered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.


With the parts of the federal government officially closed for business today – and no path out of the political gridlock in sight – lawmakers are trying to assign blame for the first government shutdown in 17 years.


President Obama in particular laid the blame on thick in an afternoon news conference where he said a small group of lawmakers were responsible for an ideologically-driven “Republican shutdown.”


“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they didn’t like one law,” Mr. Obama said. “This Republican shut down did not have to happen, but I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”


The House and Senate spent the better part of Monday and the early hours of Tuesday morning passing back and forth a short-term spending bill with no agreement. Even after midnight, when funding to keep the government open had run out, the House still voted to send the bill back to the Senate. That legislation, in addition to funding the government, also included an amendment to delay the individual mandate in Obamacare for one year and eliminate subsidies for Congressional staffers buying healthcare in the new exchanges. It also appointed eight Republican members to participate in a budget conference with the Senate, something Democrats in the upper chamber had been requesting for months to no avail.


Read More  and  Watch Video Here




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