Today in Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives will begin
debating legislation that would repeal the new federal health care law.
The body could pass that bill as early as tomorrow. And while U.S. Rep.
Luis Gutierrez rightfully called the effort "political theater at its
worst" in a statement Friday, namely because any legislation that clears
the lower chamber will be blocked in the U.S. Senate or the White
House, advocates of health care reform are taking the Republicans'
offensive quite seriously.
On Friday, we showcased a new report
that analyzes the practical impact retracting the Affordable Care Act
would have on Illinois consumers. (Ezra Klein did the same thing
using national figures this morning.) And reverting to that status quo,
warns U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, is immoral and economically unsound. At
a press event sponsored by the Campaign for Better Health Care, the
North Side Democrat was joined in Chicago this morning by one of her
constituents, diabetic David Zoltan-Breiger, who recently enrolled in
Illinois' new federally funded high-risk insurance pool. "I don't need
to worry about what happens if I have an emergency," Zoltan-Brieger
says. "I'm covered ... for now." Watch portions of their comments below:
taking a full-out repeal vote, Republicans will quickly move to gut
central provisions in the new law. Already, the GOP leadership is preparing
to pass legislation that would "direct committees to craft new
legislation." That could mean initiatives to rescind the individual
mandate, which is unpopular but the lynchpin of the reform package.
(Without it, premiums will skyrocket for those who are not healthy
enough to forgo insurance.) "Let's not be defensive about this issue of a
mandate," Schakowsky says. "It is a necessity to make the system work.
We want everyone in the United States of America to have insurance."
Illinois, like 29 other states around the country, has borrowed from the federal government to make sure unemployment insurance flows to those who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. But now a provision allowing the loans to be made interest free is expiring.
Next week, House Republicans in Washington will take the vote they've
been waiting for since March: a repeal of health care reform. We break down the practical impact such a move would have on Illinois consumers.
There was some good news on the unemployment front last month in Illinois. The state's Department of Employment Security noted in its monthly report (PDF) that through last November, the jobless rate "fell in every metropolitan area in the state for the third consecutive month."
But to call that good only shows how damaging the Great Recession has been for workers in the state (and, of course, across the country). Jobless rates in Illinois are still sky-high, after all -- 11 percent in Danville, 13.7 percent in Rockford, and 8.9 percent in the Chicago region. There are still too few jobs for too many people -- for those who have been recently laid off, for the long-term unemployed, for new graduates seeking their first positions, and others tossed in the lurch. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) announced a new initiative last week to "dramatize" that crisis. His office is now collecting resumes from the jobless to highlight "the shameful condition of unemployment and compel action to do something about it." Here's more from Jackson, via a release:
Of course, sending me a resume will not put anybody first in line for a job. It will not be forwarded to anybody who is hiring. But it will put the jobs issue front and center before the government so that we can remind elected officials that we need to go to work everyday for those who aren't allowed to go to work every day, but want to.
Details about how to submit your resume to the congressman are available through his website. With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives promising "austerity," Jackson and other advocates for the unemployed face a difficult road ahead.
Republicans assume control of the U.S. House today and their members,
new and old, couldn't be more excited to shrink America's growing
national deficit. On WLS' Don Wade and Roma this morning, U.S.
Rep. Peter Roskam recounted a conversation he had with one of his new
colleagues who entered Congress with no political experience. "As one of
these fellas told me ... 'I am not going to sit by and let a group of
people squander the prosperity of my children and grandchildren without
a fight.'" Listen (the full interview is available here):
protecting America's youth from future debt payments is a top priority
of the GOP, their actions this week sure don't reflect that mission. For
starters, Brian Beutler is reporting
that the new House rules penned by the caucus "exempt some of their
biggest legislative priorities from deficit consideration." These
include both the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which were temporarily
extended during the White House deal late last year, and ludicrously
expensive changes to the estate tax. Republicans are also keen on
repealing the new health care reform law, which the Congressional Budget
Office estimates will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion
in the decade after that. (It will also insure some 30 million
Americans.) Luckily, Democrats in the Senate and White House will block
any effort to peel back coverage. They might also want to teach Roskam
and his friends the definition of "squander."
That Democrats in Washington seem serious about reforming the rules
in the U.S. Senate is a victory for supporters of "small-d" democracy.
It's also critically important for residents of Central Illinois, whose
court system is not functioning properly because of Republican
obstruction in the upper chamber.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, which serves
46 counties and major cities like Peoria and Springfield, has only one
active judge. Three seats, as the Wonk Room points out, remain vacant. Two of President Obama's nominees for that bench, James Shadid and Sue Myerscough, were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee. But thanks to Republicans' historic
use of the filibuster threat, which requires the majority leader to
overcome anonymous objections by filing a cloture motion and then
waiting 30 hours to end debate, none have received an up-and-down vote
on the Senate floor. Indeed, the Senate has only confirmed
President Obama’s district and circuit court nominees at about half
the rate of his two predecessors. There just wasn't enough time to break
Among the changes
they have in mind, some Democrats have hinted that they would like to
distinguish judicial and executive branch confirmations from regular
legislation in terms of how they can be blocked. A few Republicans might
even cross the aisle and support such a reform. We will find out more when lawmakers reconvene next week.
Late last week, in the final deal on the Bush-era tax cuts, Congress
finally approved a 13-month extension of emergency unemployment
benefits. It's a giant relief for the estimated 241,000 workers in
Illinois who were scheduled to exhaust their benefits by February (and
everyone else who could lose his or her job at any moment through no
fault of their own.)
Funding for the programs had expired on November 30, however, which
means insurance had already lapsed for thousands of claimants who hit
their current tier's limit sometime in December. The good news is that
those checks will be paid out retroactively as part of the package;
according to a news bulletin
(PDF), the Illinois Department of Employment Security will release
those payments "after certification for the week of December 11."
(Wisconsin began processing its claims over the weekend.) In the meantime, IDES spokesperson Greg Rivara told the Rockford Register-Star
that eligible workers should "certify for benefits through the state
telephone or Internet service to smooth the payment process." That
information is available here.
UPDATE (10:31 a.m.): Greg Rivara from IDES emails to inform PI that Illinois began processing payments on Friday night, December 17.
The U.S. Senate might very well repeal the reprehensible Don't Ask,
Don't Tell policy and pass the DREAM Act before the lame duck session
officially ends on January 5. But massive spending cuts are likely on
the way early next year, thanks to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and his
colleagues in the Republican caucus.
Last night in Washington, Republicans effectively killed
a $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that had been negotiated
for close to a year. Several GOP senators, including Kirk, expressed a
willingness to filibuster the legislation because it contained earmarks
(requested by both parties), even if it meant shutting down government
operations entirely. Aware that he didn't have enough support to win a
cloture vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the bill.
Now, according to TPM, Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
are negotiating a short-term spending resolution
that will give the GOP-lead House a chance in February to set spending
levels for 2011. Expect them to be far lower than they are currently.
the Senate floor last night, Kirk and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
gloated about their victory. "So for economic conservatives," Kirk
cackled rhetorically, "a 1,924-page bill just died?" "A 1,924-page bill
just died," McCain responded laughing. Illinois' junior senator talked
about the deal on WLS' Don Wade and Roma this morning. Listen (full clip is here):
be clear about what this development will mean in practice. U.S. Rep.
Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the incoming House Budget chairman. His "Roadmap
for America’s Future," if implemented in full, would actually increase the deficit
by 2020 to the tune of $1.3 trillion by slashing taxes on the rich.
Domestic priorities like education and benefits for the poor and
middle-class won't be protected, either. This is not a win for fiscal
conservatives. It's a win for the wealthy.