… the “party of ‘no’” says, “maybe.”
Good news on the tax front. This at least hints the GOP isn’t willing to blow up tax cuts for a very huge majority of taxpayers just to side with the top two percent (or thereabouts) of households.
From the link:
The top Republican in the House of Representatives offered a hint of compromise on the divisive issue of taxes on Sunday, saying he would support extending tax cuts for the middle class even if cuts for the wealthy are allowed to expire.
Representative John Boehner said President Barack Obama’s proposal to renew lower tax rates for families making less than $250,000 but let the lower rates for wealthier Americans expire was “bad policy” — but he will support it if he must.
“If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for it,” Boehner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
“If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that,” he said. “But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.”
… before the election adjournment in October.
From the link:
The House could consider an extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for middle-income households prior to the chamber’s Oct. 8 target adjournment, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Aug. 3.
Hoyer said he would like the legislation to move before lawmakers adjourn to campaign for the midterm elections. But it is possible that the House will not reach an agreement on how to proceed, he told reporters during a conference call hosted by the Center for American Progress.
“I think many in our caucus and many on the Senate side would like to see us address it and to give confidence to working Americans that their taxes are not going to be increased, and I fall under that category,” Hoyer said.
Additionally, “we have to deal with the Senate,” he said, adding that it is not a requirement that the Senate move the extension first. Some House leaders have previously said that they would wait until the Senate acts.
The tax relief package has comfortably passed the House and hopefully will finally make life a bit easier for startups and other small businesses.
From the link:
The bill, which would eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses, passed on a vote of 247-170.
It is a companion bill to legislation backed by President Barack Obama that the House is to consider on Wednesday. That bill would create a $30 billion fund to encourage community banks to lend to small businesses.
“Small businesses need capital to create jobs and lead our economic recovery and these bills contain important tax cuts and lending opportunities that will help give small business owners the resources and flexibility they need to help their businesses grow,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin.
The bill gives small businesses a bigger tax break on start up costs and creates a program to help small businesses struggling to repay loans.
With health care over and done Congress is already looking to boost an ailing Main Street.
From the link:
The House approved 246-178 a bill designed to boost investment in small businesses, which have been reluctant to take on new workers as the economy recovers from the worst recession in 70 years.
The bill would also expand subsidies for state and local construction bonds in an effort to bring down the 9.7 percent unemployment rate ahead of the November congressional elections.
Democrats noted that the popular Build America bond-subsidy program has funded $78 billion in state and local construction projects.
“It’s been an effective tool in job creation,” said the bill’s author, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin.
It’s either spinelessness or hypocrisy from the Democrats. Both shoes probably fit.
From the link:
Caught in a swirl of ethics inquiries, Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, appeared to be losing his grip on his powerful post as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday night as Republicans planned to force a vote insisting that he step aside.
The House ethics committee last week admonished Mr. Rangel, an ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for violating Congressional gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.
The ethics panel is still investigating more serious allegations regarding Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.
Looks like it. Here’s a solid analysis from Jonathan Bernstein guest-blogging at the Daily Dish.
From the link:
Item: Ten House Dems who voted against the bill the first time around are telling the AP (via Jonathan Chait) that they might vote yes this time around. Chait is right about the incentives here as far as public statements are concerned. I’d put it this way: there’s an easily understandable story of going from no, to maybe, to yes…but it makes no sense at all to go from no, to maybe, to no.
I should emphasize here that it is very, very rare for the majority to lose a high-stakes vote on final passage on the House floor. You just don’t bring a bill to the floor unless you know you’re going to win. I can’t imagine a reason that Nancy Pelosi and the White House would bring this to the floor knowing that they were going to lose, for some sort of spin advantage. They either know that they have the votes, or it’s the biggest bluff in who knows how long. Keep watching: does the president really announce the schedule tomorrow that was leaked today? Does the Speaker really keep to that schedule, or do leaks start appearing about pushing it back a few days? I don’t think so, however. I think they have the votes.
Final tally of 220-215 for the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Now the show is off to the Senate.
If you are interested in civil liberties and how criminal law is executed and enforced in the United States, take a few minutes to read Tim Lynch’s testimony before the House’s subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Lynch is the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice.
Lynch’s testimony was titled, “Over-Criminalization of Conduct/Over-Federalization of Criminal Law.”
From the link:
Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse
The sheer volume of modern law makes it impossible for an ordinary American household to stay informed. And yet, prosecutors vigorously defend the old legal maxim that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”4 That maxim may have been appropriate for a society that simply criminalized inherently evil conduct, such as murder, rape, and theft, but it is wholly inappropriate in a labyrinthine regulatory regime that criminalizes activities that are morally neutral. As Professor Henry M. Hart opined, “In no respect is contemporary law subject to greater reproach than for its obtuseness to this fact.”5
To illustrate the rank injustice that can and does occur, take the case of Carlton Wilson, who was prosecuted because he possessed a firearm. Wilson’s purchase of the firearm was perfectly legal, but, years later, he didn’t know that he had to give it up after a judge issued a restraining order during his divorce proceedings. When Wilson protested that the judge never informed him of that obligation and that the restraining order itself said nothing about firearms, prosecutors shrugged, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”6Although the courts upheld Wilson’s conviction, Judge Richard Posner filed a dissent: “We want people to familiarize themselves with the laws bearing on their activities. But a reasonable opportunity doesn’t mean being able to go to the local law library and read Title 18. It would be preposterous to suppose that someone from Wilson’s milieu is able to take advantage of such an opportunity.”7Judge Posner noted that Wilson would serve more than three years in a federal penitentiary for an omission that he “could not have suspected was a crime or even a civil wrong.”8
It is simply outrageous for the government to impose a legal duty on every citizen to “know” all of the mind-boggling rules and regulations that have been promulgated over the years. Policymakers can and should discard the “ignorance-is-no-excuse” maxim by enacting a law that would require prosecutors to prove that regulatory violations are “willful” or, in the alternative, that would permit a good-faith belief in the legality of one’s conduct to be pleaded and proved as a defense. The former rule is already in place for our complicated tax laws—but it should also shield unwary Americans from all of the laws and regulations as well.9
Looks like the House thinks so.
From the link:
House lawmakers on Wednesday accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of impeding their probe into the agency’s failure to uncover the alleged $50 billion Bernard Madoff fraud.
The clash between lawmakers and high-ranking SEC officials at a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing came after the man who waged a decade-long campaign to alert the regulators to problems in Madoff’s operations denounced the agency for its inaction. Whistleblower Harry Markopolos also said he had feared for his physical safety and would turn over new evidence that Madoff had not acted alone.
In loud, angry exchanges, lawmakers threatened to issue subpoenas to SEC officials to compel their testimony in the case.
We all knew it was coming, but get ready. The House is putting the finishing touches on a $850 billion stimulus package.
From the link:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats are close to finalizing the details of an economic recovery package.
Pelosi declined to give reporters any details of the bill, but said she is more confident that Congress would reach the mid-February deadline for getting a bill to Obama’s desk.
“It’s about four words — jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” she said.
The overall price tag for the package is $800 billion to $850 billion, with $300 billion to $325 billion designated for tax cuts and $500 billion to $525 billion dedicated to infrastructure spending and aid to the states, according to a senior House Democratic aide.
It’s possible an announcement will be made on Thursday, the aide said.
Interesting analysis from Nate Silver at 538.
From the link:
Even in districts where the Republicans did compete, moreover, they were often not truly competitive. The Democrats had 126 districts that they won by 40 points or more (including races that they won uncontested); these are what I call Democrat-Dominant Districts (DDD’s). These districts represent approximately half of the Democratic seats in the House, and nearly 30 percent of the House in its entirety. By contrast, the Republicans had only had 30 districts that they won by 40 or more points, of which 22 are in the South.
What characteristics did the DDD’s hold in common? In general, they were more urban, younger and poorer (although not any less educated) than the country as whole, and contained a significantly higher share of minorities. But, with 126 such districts, there was quite a bit of room for diversity between them. Basically, the Republicans aren’t competitive virtually anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard north of Washington, D.C., and virtually anywhere on the Pacific Coast north of Monterey. They aren’t competitive in virtually any dense urban center, or in virtually any majority-minority district (such as the black belt in the South or Hispanic-majority districts in South Texas). Finally, there are a dozen or so districts where Republicans are virtually nonexistant because of the presence of a large College or University. Collectively, that adds up to a lot of districts — almost a third of the country.
Conversely, the Democrats have very few districts in which they can’t play some angle or another. Nearly all of the Republican-dominated districts fit into a particular template: white, Southern, rural or exurban, lower-middle class (but not usually impoverished), low-mobility, with poorly-diversified economies reliant on traditional sectors like manufacturing or agriculture. There are only a couple dozen such districts throughout the country
… the dwindling hopes for McCain and the GOP.
From the link:
At this point it would be difficult to see Republican losses in the Senate and House to be fewer than seven and 20 respectively. A very challenging situation going into September turned into a meltdown last month, the most dire predictions for the GOP early on became the most likely outcome.
The metrics of this election argue strongly that this campaign is over, it’s only the memory of many an election that seemed over but wasn’t that is keeping us from closing the book mentally on this one. First, no candidate behind this far in the national polls, this late in the campaign has come back to win. Sure, we have seen come-from-behind victories, but they didn’t come back this far this late.
Second, early voting has made comebacks harder and would tend to diminish the impact of the kind of late-breaking development that might save McCain’s candidacy. With as many as one-third of voters likely to cast their ballot before Election Day, every day more are cast and the campaign is effectively over for them. The longer Obama has this kind of lead and the more votes are cast early, the more voters are out of the pool for McCain.
One word — ouch.
… from the American Political Science Association.
October 21, 2008: Election Forecast Predicts Democrats Will Gain 3 Seats in Senate, 11 in House APSA Press Release
For Immediate Release
In forecasts made in July 2008, Democrats seen as gaining in both chambers but falling short of achieving control of the Senate.
Washington, DC—An election forecast model developed by a political scientist 99 days before the 2008 elections and before the recent Wall Street crisis predicts significant Democratic gains in the 2008 congressional elections—including 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 3 seats in the U.S. Senate.
The predictions are made in an article authored by Carl Klarner (Indiana State University) and published in an election-specific symposium in the October 2008 issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The full symposium is available online at http://www.apsanet.org/content_58382.cfm.
Traditionally, efforts to call elections rely either on district- and state-level analyses limited to recently collected information (such as polls) or aggregate forecasting models measuring national trends. Klarner notes that “most forecasting models of House and Senate elections have not made predictions at the state or district level” and that “how national factors influence election outcomes is contingent on the distribution of votes across districts or states.” His 2008 forecast refines his own previous work in this area to use a model that combines both approaches.
The House and Senate forecasts were made in late July 2008, and the author’s model focuses on the percent of the major-party vote that the Democratic candidate received in a state or district. Klarner considers three main sets of factors in examining past elections from 1954 onward: district partisan composition, candidate attributes, and national partisan tides. The weighting of these factors is based on a range of historical and empirical data—including most recent votes for Democrats in a district; results of the most recent presidential vote; incumbency; prior experience in candidates; national vote intentions reported in surveys; presidential approval; performance of the economy; and the “midterm penalty” for the president’s party.
The model’s House prediction includes the following items of note:
- Democrats will receive 247 seats in the House—a gain of 11 seats overall.
- There is a 95% probability that Democrats will have between 233 and 266 seats after the election and a 67% probability that they will have between 240 and 255 seats.
- There is a about a 0% probability that the Democrats will lose control of the House.
The model’s Senate prediction includes the following items of note:
- Democrats will have 54 Senate seats after the election—a net gain of 3.
- There is a 95% probability that the Democrats will win between 12 and 19 seats out of the 35 seats up this election.
- There is a 2.4% chance the Democrats will lose control of the Senate.
- There is a 0.3% chance that the Democrats will obtain a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats.
By integrating long-term data analysis with current local and national political factors, this election forecast model reflects ongoing efforts by political scientists to analyze election dynamics in the US. Notably, this prediction of the outcome of the 2008 congressional election was made well before the recent Wall Street financial crisis has made the political landscape more favorable to Democrats.
# # #
The American Political Science Association (est. 1903) is the leading professional organization for the study of politics and has over 14,000 members in 80 countries. For more news and information about political science research visit the APSA media website, www.politicalsciencenews.org.
From KurzweilAI.net, the House passed a bill to begin tracking potential Earth-strike asteroids, and a new low-cost, high-volume method of integrating nanowires onto silicon has been developed.
|House passes bill mandating a plan for asteroid warning and deflection
|KurzweilAI.net, June 27, 2008
In recently passed H.R.6063, The U.S. House of Representatives would direct the NASA Administrator to develop plans for a low-cost spacemission to rendezvous with the Apophis asteroid and attach a tracking device (subject to Senate approval).
The Apophis is expected to pass at a distance from Earth that is closer than geostationary satellites in 2029.
The bill would also require the Director of the White House’s Office of Science and TechnologyPolicy (OSTP) to develop a policy within two years for notifying Federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending near-Earth objectthreat. And the OSTP would be required to recommend a Federal agency (or agencies) to be responsible for protecting the Nation from any near-Earth object anticipated to collide with Earth, and for implementing a deflection campaign.
|Researchers develop new technique for fabricating nanowire circuits
|Nanowerk News, June 26, 2008
Scientists at Harvard University and German universities of Jena, Gottingen, and Bremen have developed a reproducible, high-volume, low-cost fabrication methodfor integrating nanowire devices directly onto silicon.
The method incorporates spin-on glass technology, used in silicon integrated circuits manufacturing, and photolithography, transferring a circuit pattern onto a substrate with light. These devices can then function as light-emitting diodes, with the color of light determined by the type of semiconductor nanowire used.
Because nanowires can be made of materials commonly used in electronics and photonics, they hold great promise for integrating efficient light emitters, and could lead to the development of a completely new class of integrated circuits, such as large arrays of ultra-small nanoscale lasers that could be designed as high-density optical interconnects or used for on-chip chemical sensing.
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