Thursday, July 30, 2009

President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients

16 Agents of Change to Receive Top Civilian Honor

President Obama today named 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

This year’s awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change. Among their many accomplishments in fields ranging from sports and art to science and medicine to politics and public policy, these men and women have changed the world for the better. They have blazed trails and broken down barriers. They have discovered new theories, launched new initiatives, and opened minds to new possibilities.

President Obama said, “These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.

“Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom.”

President Obama will present the awards at a ceremony on Wednesday, August 12.

The following individuals will receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Nancy Goodman Brinker
Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer grass roots organization. Brinker established the organization in memory of her sister, who passed away from breast cancer in 1980. Through innovative events like Race for the Cure, the organization has given and invested over $1.3 billion for research, health services and education services since its founding in 1982 and developed a worldwide grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists who are working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find cures. Brinker has received several awards for her work, and has also served in government as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary (2001 – 2003), Chief of Protocol of the U.S. (2007 – 2009), and Chair of the President’s Cancer Panel (1990). In May, Nancy Goodman Brinker was named the first-ever World Health Organization's Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control.

Pedro José Greer, Jr.
Dr. Pedro Jose Greer is a physician and the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Florida International University School of Medicine, where he also serves as Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society. Dr. Greer is the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless patients a year in the city of Miami. He is also the founder and medical director of the St. John Bosco Clinic which provides basic primary medical care to disadvantaged children and adults in the Little Havana community. He has been recognized by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Sr., and Carter for his work with Miami's poor . He is also the recipient of three Papal Medals as well as the prestigious MacArthur "genius grant". He currently has a joint private practice with his father, Pedro Greer, Sr.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton in 1669. In addition to his pioneering academic research in mathematics and physics, Hawking has penned three popular science books, including the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Hawking, a British citizen, believes that non-academics should be able to access his work just as physicists are, and has also published a children’s science book with his daughter. His persistence and dedication has unlocked new pathways of discovery and inspired everyday citizens.

Jack Kemp
Jack Kemp, who passed away in May 2009, served as a U.S. Congressman (1971 – 1989), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1989 – 1993), and Republican Nominee for Vice President (1996). Prior to entering public service, Kemp was a professional football player (1957 – 1969) and led the Buffalo Bills to American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965. In Congress and as a Cabinet Secretary, Kemp was a self-described “bleeding heart conservative” who worked to encourage development in underserved urban communities. In the years leading up to his death, Kemp continued seeking new solutions, raising public attention about the challenge of poverty, and working across party lines to improve the lives of Americans and others around the world.

Sen. Edward Kennedy
Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for forty-six years, and has been one of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time. From reforming our public schools to strengthening civil rights laws and supporting working Americans, Senator Kennedy has dedicated his career to fighting for equal opportunity, fairness and justice for all Americans. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that every American has access to quality and affordable health care, and has succeeded in doing so for countless children, seniors, and Americans with disabilities. He has called health care reform the “cause of his life,” and has championed nearly every health care bill enacted by Congress over the course of the last five decades. Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Kennedy is widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to progress and his ability to legislate.

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, and has helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life. King beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, then the most viewed tennis match in history. King became one of the first openly lesbian major sports figures in America when she came out in 1981. Following her professional tennis career, King became the first woman commissioner in professional sports when she co-founded and led the World Team Tennis (WTT) League. The U.S. Tennis Association named the National Tennis Center, where the US Open is played, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

Rev. Joseph Lowery
Reverend Lowery has been a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s. Rev. Lowery helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks was denied a seat, and later co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Lowery led the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Rev. Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church, and has continued to highlight important civil rights issues in the U.S. and worldwide, including apartheid in South Africa, since the 1960s.

Joe Medicine Crow – High Bird
Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, is the author of seminal works in Native American history and culture. He is the last person alive to have received direct oral testimony from a participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn: his grandfather was a scout for General George Armstrong Custer. A veteran of World War II, Medicine Crow accomplished during the war all of the four tasks required to become a “war chief,” including stealing fifty Nazi SS horses from a German camp. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attend college, receiving his master’s degree in anthropology in 1939, and continues to lecture at universities and notable institutions like the United Nations. His contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans are matched only by his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country.

Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk encouraged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens to live their lives openly and believed coming out was the only way they could change society and achieve social equality. Milk, alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was shot and killed in 1978 by Dan White, a former city supervisor. Milk is revered nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights.

Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice O’Connor was the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court. Nominated by President Reagan in 1981, she served until her retirement in 2006. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, O’Connor served as a state trial and appellate judge in Arizona. She was also as a member of the Arizona state senate, where she became the first woman in the United States ever to lead a state senate as Senate Majority Leader. At a time when women rarely entered the legal profession, O’Connor graduated Stanford Law School third in her class, where she served on the Stanford Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. Since retiring from the Supreme Court in 2006, O’Connor has served as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, on the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center, and participated in the Iraq Study Group in 2006, as well as giving numerous lectures on public service. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding achievements and public service.

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier is a groundbreaking actor, becoming the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s. Poitier is the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award, receive an award at a top international film festival (Venice Film Festival), and be the top grossing movie star in the United States. Poitier insisted that the film crew on The Lost Man be at least 50 percent African American, and starred in the first mainstream movies portraying “acceptable” interracial marriages and interracial kissing. Poitier began his acting career without any training or experience by auditioning at the American Negro Theatre.

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera is an accomplished and versatile actress, singer, and dancer, who has won Two Tony Awards and received seven more nominations while breaking barriers and inspiring a generation of women to follow in her footsteps. In 2002, she became the first Hispanic recipient of the coveted Kennedy Center Honor. Propelled to stardom by her electric performance as Anita in the original Broadway premiere of West Side Story, Rivera went on to star in additional landmark musicals such as Chicago, Bye Bye Birdie, and Jerry’s Girls. She recently starred in The Dancer’s Life, an autobiographical musical about her celebrated life in the theatre.

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland (1990 – 1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002), a post that required her to end her presidency four months early. Robinson served as a prominent member of the Irish Senate prior to her election as President. She continues to bring attention to international issues as Honorary President of Oxfam International, and Chairs the Board of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI Alliance). Since 2002 she has been President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, based in New York, which is an organization she founded to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all.

Janet Davison Rowley
Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., is the Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at The University of Chicago. She is an American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers. Rowley is internationally renowned for her studies of chromosome abnormalities in human leukemia and lymphoma, which have led to dramatically improved survival rates for previously incurable cancers and the development of targeted therapies. In 1999 President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Science--the nation's highest scientific honor.

Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. Widely regarded as “South Africa's moral conscience,” he served as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1978 – 1985, where he led a formidable crusade in support of justice and racial reconciliation in South Africa. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work through SACC in 1984. Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, and the Chair of the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. He retired as Archbishop in 1996 and is currently Chair of the Elders.

Muhammad Yunus
Dr. Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and has pioneered the use of “micro-loans” to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral. Dr. Yunus, an economist by training, founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 in his native Bangladesh to provide small, low-interest loans to the poor to help better their livelihood and communities. Despite its low interest rates and lending to poor individuals, Grameen Bank is sustainable and 98% percent of its loans are repaid – higher than other banking systems. It has spread its successful model throughout the world. Dr. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Libertarians warn Judiciary vote may have consequences

America’s third largest party Wednesday reminded members of the Senate Judiciary Committee their vote for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a vote against constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights and those who vote to confirm in the full Senate next week can expect to be held accountable at the polls.

Libertarians announced their opposition to the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation early, after reviewing her troubling record on individual, property and gun rights. The Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send the nomination to the full Senate. South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham joined the committee’s 12 Democrats.

“A judge’s record is the best indicator of what they will do on the Court, and Judge Sotomayor’s record is one of opposition to the individual right to keep and bear arms. Libertarians, and all of America’s 90 million gun owners, will remember how you voted,” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director. “Your vote on Judge Sotomayor may come back to haunt you one November.”

“And if you think you can’t lose your seat over the gun issue, I suggest you speak with Harris Wofford,” said Ferguson, referring to the incumbent Democratic Pennsylvania senator who lost his seat to Republican Rick Santorum in 1994 by a 49 to 47 percent margin, after supporting the Clinton gun ban. “If I’m a senator who could lose if a small percentage of my pro-gun base votes for another candidate, I’d be worried.”

“History shows, whether it’s a grassroots conservative activist, a blue-collar union member or a libertarian, the base of every party is made up of people who value their gun rights and will not support someone who votes against their constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms,” said Ferguson. “The Libertarian Party is the only party in America that never compromises on gun rights, and one way or another we will hold those voting to confirm accountable on Election Day.”

In the New York v Maloney case earlier this year, Sotomayor affirmed a lower court ruling that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms does not apply to the states.

Sotomayor also ruled against gun rights in a 2004 case, United States
v Sanchez-Villar, citing as precedent the statement “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.”

The Supreme Court will likely rule next year on the NRA v Chicago case, a case critical to restoring the individual right to keep and bear arms.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Libertarians: No need for ‘Iraq war rush’ to government-run medicine

America’s third largest party Tuesday urged Congress to take its time deliberating the proposed government takeover of the nation’s health care system amid pressure from the White House to quickly adopt the troubled proposal quickly and with minimal debate. Libertarians oppose the plan, which deepens the federal budget deficit and leads to the rationing of basic health care.

“As confidence in President Obama’s plans for a federal government takeover of medicine plunges, the White House is pressuring legislators to rush to judgment while the plan can still be salvaged,” said William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee Chairman. “We urge Congress to deliberate this massive government takeover carefully, take their time to allow Americans to read the full bill and then vote down this legislative disaster.”

A poll conducted independently by the Gallup organization, not for any party or group, and released today shows disapproval of the Obama plan tops approval among adults by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin. Among political independents, the gap grows. Fifty-five percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s plan. Only 40 percent approve.

“The more we find out about the Democrat plan, whether it’s the language on page sixteen outlawing private insurance or Section 440 empowering government to visit your home and monitor your parenting, the more obvious it becomes why President Obama wants as little transparency as possible. As we saw during the rush to the Iraq war, nothing good can happen when the president demands Congress give him what he wants immediately and without debate,” said Redpath.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Bob Barr media statement on the "Barr amendment"

Former U.S. Representative Bob Barr (7th Dist. GA, 1995-2003) today issued the following statement in response to the action last Thursday, July 16th, by the House of Representatives repealing the appropriations rider that, since 1998, had prohibited the District of Columbia from implementing a marijuana legalization referendum. The amendment was passed initially in 1998 and reinstated each year since, and was commonly known as the “Barr Amendment” because Barr had been its prime sponsor. Barr’s statement follows:

“Last week’s vote by the House of Representatives lifting the 11-year old prohibition on the District of Columbia from taking steps to pass and implement any measure decriminalizing or legalizing the sale or use of marijuana in the District, represents an important step in the direction of individual freedom and properly limiting the power of the federal government.

“While I in fact sponsored the initial appropriations limitation in 1998, the years since then have witnessed such a dramatic increase in federal government power and an unprecedented decrease in individual liberty, especially since 2001, that I have come to realize that such limitations as the so-called “Barr Amendment” are not and cannot be justified. It has become necessary to reevaluate the power of the federal government that I and others once were able or willing to justify, and do what we can to roll back the tide of government control.

“I have applauded also the indications by Attorney General Eric Holder to begin easing federal efforts against individuals in states that have moved to decriminalize or legalize the use of marijuana, and the fresh approach to the federal anti-drug effort as articulated earlier this year by Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drup Control Policy (the so-called “Drug Czar”).”

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Boehner Statement on White House Decision to Delay Mid-Year Budget Review

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement on the White House’s decision to put off its mid-year budget review, which is expected to show a historic deficit, until next month, after Congress has left Washington:

“Let’s be honest about what this is: an attempt to hide a record-breaking deficit as Democratic leaders break arms to rush through a government takeover of health care. The Congressional Budget Office confirmed last week that the Democrats’ plans will increase health care costs and add hundreds of billions to the deficit. Try as they might, the White House cannot hide the fact that the policies of this Administration have buried our children and grandchildren under historic debt. Washington Democrats are spending with reckless abandon, yet by burying this budget update until after Congress leaves town next month, the Administration is not willing to own up to the consequences of this dangerous fiscal agenda.

“All year long, Republicans have proposed better solutions to create jobs, expand access to affordable health care, curb spending, and control the debt, but Democrats instead have gone it alone and barreled ahead with an expensive, partisan agenda. Taxpayers cannot afford it, nor can future generations. It’s time for Democrats to work in a bipartisan way to get control over our budget and trust small businesses – not government here in Washington – to create jobs for the American people.”

NOTE: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week estimated that the House Democrats’ government takeover of health care would increase the deficit by $239 billion over the next 10 years, while CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf warned Congress that the Democrats’ plans will drive health care costs even higher.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cagle: Lt. Governor and Senators will be Furloughed

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle announced Thursday that he along with all state Senators will begin furloughs starting August 1. The Lt. Governor and Senators will be furloughed for one day of their monthly pay period through the end of calendar year 2009.

“With the Senate been forced to make difficult state budget cuts and place financial burdens on our hard-working state employees and their families, we realize that all of us are in this dismal economic situation together and no single person is immune from feeling the effects of continued revenue shortfalls,” said Lt. Gov. Cagle. “As elected leaders we are called upon to lead by example for the greater good of our state and I am certain the commitment the Senate has shown to fiscally responsible policy will help lead us through these tough economic times to future growth and prosperity.”

Cagle said that the Senate will address whether such furloughs will continue for the remainder of the fiscal year at the beginning of the 2010 Legislative Session. Members of the House of Representatives will also be taking monthly furloughs.

“The Speaker and I have consulted each other on legislative furloughs and are both committed to doing all we can to see our economy gets back on track,” added Cagle.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Libertarians take aim at Sotomayor’s anti-gun stance

America’s third largest party reiterated its opposition Wednesday to the Supreme Court nomination of federal judge Sonia Sotomayor after the nominee refused to give a firm answer on whether individuals have the right of self-defense.

“Is there a constitutional right to self-defense?” Sotomayor asked when questioned by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) whether or not the Constitution guaranteed him the right of self-defense. “ I can’t think of one. I could be wrong.”

“Whether you agree with her position or not, Judge Sotomayor has had no problem stating that things not directly found in the Constitution are ‘settled law.’ That’s why it’s troubling that when confronted with a constitutionally-enshrined principle she disagrees with, the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of one’s rights, things are suddenly muddled and up for debate,” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director.

“The Libertarian Party is the only party that never compromises in its defense of our Second Amendment-guaranteed rights. That’s why we have opposed Judge Sotomayor’s nomination from the moment we reviewed her troubling anti-gun record. Judge Sotomayor’s answers Wednesday further show she believes the law should flow from her own personal biases and not the literal wording of the Constitution,” said Ferguson.

Judge Sotomayor is the latest in a long line of hardline anti-gun activists nominated by President Obama to government positions where they would have the power to infringe on gun rights. Libertarians also opposed the nominations of anti-gun Attorney General Eric Holder and anti-gun State Department legal adviser Harold Koh.

“The Libertarian Party will hold accountable at the ballot box any senator who votes to confirm Judge Sotomayor. America’s nearly 90 million gun owners come from all walks of life and political beliefs – and they decide their vote on this issue. Libertarians look forward to speaking with them about the LP’s fundamental belief in gun rights, and their senator’s voting record on it,” said Ferguson.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Full Transcript of House Democrats' Press Conference on Introduction of Health Care Legislation

/PRNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Chairman Henry Waxman, Chairman Charles Rangel, Chairman George Miller, Chairman John Dingell and other senior House Democrats held a press conference in the Capitol this afternoon to discuss legislation introduced today by the Tri-Committees on health care reform.

Below is a transcript of the entire press conference.

Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon.

This is indeed a happy day, for today we are introducing historic and transformative legislation that will benefit all Americans -- America's Affordable Health Choices Act. It is a health insurance act for the great middle class of America.

I'd like to thank our committee chairs for the work they have done to ensure quality, affordability, and accessibility for America's middle class. In doing so, I am joining the praise of the President of the United States and the praise that he heaped upon them earlier today when the bill was filed. I'd like to acknowledge the great work of Chairman Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Miller of the Education and Labor Committee, and to all of their staffs who have worked so hard to make this day possible.

I especially want to acknowledge Chairman Dingell. I said to Chairman Dingell just before we came in here, "Are you happy? Isn't this a great day?" He said, "I'm happy, and my father would be happy, too." Chairman Dingell, every year in his long service in Congress, has introduced universal health care legislation, and now he is the lead author on this historic legislation that will take us to that place. Thank you Mr. Dingell.

I'd also like to acknowledge some other members of the leadership who are here. Mr. Hoyer, whom you'll be hearing from later, important leader at organizing and coordinating this effort; Mr. Clyburn, our distinguished Whip; Mr. Larson, the chair of the Caucus; Mr. Becerra, the Vice-Chair; Mr. Van Hollen wears two leadership hats as Assistant to the Speaker and Chair of the DCCC. In addition to that, the chairs of the subcommittees who've worked very hard on this, bringing their extensive knowledge and experience in health care and health care insurance reform -- Chairman Stark of the of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Andrews of Education and Labor, and Chairman Pallone of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Have I acknowledged everyone? I can acknowledge everyone in the Caucus, this has been such a joint effort.

Over the coming weeks Congress will continue working with President Obama to make health care reform work for middle-class Americans. This bill is a starting point and a path to success. To lower costs to consumers and businesses, to give greater choice to Americans, including keeping your doctor or plan if you like them, better quality of care putting doctors, not insurance companies back in charge, and to provide stability and peace of mind that you cannot be denied care or coverage for a pre-existing condition.

This is so important to the middle class. You cannot be denied care from a pre-existing condition. If you change jobs, lose your job, or start a new business, you still have health care. This is very important to the entrepreneurial spirit of America. Inaction is not an option for us. That is why we are still on schedule to do what we have planned, to vote on this legislation before we leave for the August recess.

I'm now pleased to introduce the distinguished Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I do so with admiration and appreciation for his great leadership in bringing us to where we are today along with the other chairs, Mr. Waxman.

Chairman Waxman. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

This legislation is landmark legislation, and this is a defining moment for our country. We are about to undertake what has eluded so many Presidents and Congresses for far too long, and that is the objective of getting good quality, affordable health care insurance to every American.

The President was elected with the mandate that he undertake this very ambitious goal. And he outlined how he wanted to achieve it, by building on the system that we have now, by giving people the option to keep the insurance that they have, if they like it, and to allow the seniors to stay in Medicare but improve that system.

But for those who have no insurance, or for those small businesses that cannot afford insurance, our legislation will allow people to choose an insurance option. And I emphasize the word "choice" because that choice and competition is one very formidable way to hold down the costs.

We are trying to achieve a number of different objectives. But holding down the costs in health care is certainly, by far, our number one objective. The system is unsustainable. We cannot continue to put more and more money into health care, especially when you recognize that this country spends more money on health care than any other Western industrialized nation.

And yet, we have 46 million to 50 million people uninsured, and more and more stories of people who have insurance that doesn't work for them when they need that insurance to kick in and pay for their medical bills.

We can't afford it as a country, paying for Medicare and Medicaid. We can't afford it for those who are buying insurance that's going up every year. We can't afford it for governments at the local level that help pay for health care as well.

So our system is dysfunctional, and this legislation, we hope, will bring a system together that will serve all of the American people and all those who provide care for those people.

The legislation that we are rolling out today is an improvement on the draft that was released a couple of weeks ago. It reflects the input from many of our colleagues.

We have a number of items, from making sure that we protect small businesses to making sure that people have more options, and a number of other changes that you'll be able to look at when you see the draft.

This draft, which is the product of the three committees, will now be presented to each of our three committees. And in our committee, on the Energy and Commerce, we will work through some of the differences we have among the members, both Democrats and Republicans, with the objective that we are going to get a bill.

We cannot allow this issue to be delayed. We cannot put it off again. We, quite frankly, cannot go home for a recess unless the House and the Senate both pass bills to reform and restructure our health care system.

And that is what we're going to be doing in the next three weeks, accomplishing this goal in the House and the Senate, so that we can get together and work out one final piece of legislation for the President to sign.

I'm pleased that we've had such strong leadership from our Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and our Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, and our Whip, Jim Clyburn, and others in our caucus.

And we are -- we are moving forward. We are going to -- we are going to accomplish what many people have felt wouldn't come in our lifetime, but we are going to make it happen in the House this next few weeks, and in the Congress by the end of this year, to the President's desk for his signature.

I'm pleased now to yield the floor to the very distinguished Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a key participant in the legislation that we are rolling out today, Chairman Charlie Rangel.

Chairman Rangel. Thank you, Henry.

Madam Speaker, I almost feel like I'm one of the luckiest people in the world, to have stayed here so long to wait for a President that has made a personal political commitment to provide health care for all of America.

To go through so many Speakers and to have such a dynamic Speaker to be working with to bring all these Indian chiefs together and to read from one page for America, to let people know that those 50 million people that don't have insurance, they're getting health care, but to remind America that they're paying for it, the doctors are charging for it, the hospitals are charging for it, the health insurance people are charging for it, the rates are just soaring.

There's not anybody in America that's an adult that doesn't have some horror story about somebody that lost their lives, lost their home, lost their jobs, lost their insurance.

And just to think that these people will be able to work anyplace with their families knowing that they are insured, to have the self-esteem to know that such a large part of their disposable income would not have to be for insurance, but America and our government will be there to effectively compete, to have people to be able to make decisions based on what's good for them and their families, and to know that we're going to provide the providers there so that people can now look into the future and know that if they really just don't want to make a buck, but want to do what doctors are supposed to do, to serve people and to cure people and to prevent illness, how lucky we are to be in a Congress with such leadership, and to have a President that's going to give us an opportunity that if we do nothing else, we can say we were a part of the team that brought universal health to the people of the United States of America.

I want to really thank Pete Stark. As old as he is, he spent so much of his time working on this subject, and (inaudible)...

He keeps calling me "Dad." But Chairman Miller's been a dynamic person to work with -- this whole team. And we have promised the President and we promised the American people that we've been challenged and we will produce. And thank you for giving us an opportunity.

George Miller, the dynamic chairman of Education and Labor.

Chairman Miller. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

This is a very exciting day for so many of us that have been involved in public service and in the Congress of the United States most of our lives, to stand here today with the introduction of our legislation that will embrace the desires of the American people to have real health care, real coverage, real affordability and real access, and to stand here with the introduction of legislation that meets the goals that were articulated by President Obama, to lower the cost, to preserve choice, and expand access to care.

Our bill addresses America's economic and fiscal health and its medical well being of all our people. Let me be specific about what our bill means to the average American. Our bill will lower costs for health care. There will be no more co-pays or deductibles for preventive care; no more rate increases because of pre-existing conditions or because of your gender or where you happen to work.

There will be an annual cap on your out-of-pocket expenses. Group rates will be available for individuals who have to purchase insurance for themselves. Guaranteed and affordable oral, hearing and vision care for our children.

Our bill will provide choice of care. You can keep your doctor and your current plan if you like them. Your choices will be protected and enhanced. You will have access to a wide variety of choices for quality and affordable plans, including a high-quality public health insurance option to compete with the private insurers.

Our bill will increase the quality of care. You and your doctor will make health care decisions, not your insurance company. More family doctors and nurses will be able to enter the workforce, helping to guarantee your access to better treatment that meets your needs. Mental health care will be covered.

Our bill will offer stability and a peace of mind. Never again will you go without health insurance. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that you will never lose coverage. If you lose your job, you switch jobs, you start a business, you will keep your coverage.

You will never be denied coverage because of those pre-existing conditions. And you won't -- and you won't face any lifetime limits on how much instance companies will pay, meaning that never again will you be one treatment away from bankruptcy.

And our reforms will cover 97 percent of the Americans by year 2019.

Beginning this week -- or beginning tomorrow or the next day -- our committees will mark up in our respective areas of jurisdiction. Our Republican and Democratic colleagues are already busy drafting amendments to the bill, and they will have an opportunity to offer their amendments.

We will continue to improve our bill by working with those with constructive ideas, and we'll endeavor to satisfy the many competing demands that naturally accompany a bill of this scope and importance.

We will in this year produce a bill that is fair and fully paid for, reduces cost, preserves choice, and expands access for all Americans. That was the charge that President Obama gave this Congress when he was sworn into office. It was the charge that the American people gave President Obama when they voted for him in the election. And this Congress is delivering on that promise for the first time in the history of this country.

And one who has worked on this longer and harder than any of us, Chairman John Dingell.

Chairman Dingell. Thank you very much, Chairman Miller.

Madam Speaker, our leader, my colleagues, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, and our leader, Mr. Hoyer, I am proud, indeed, to be here with my great colleagues who have worked so hard on this undertaking. And I'm delighted to be a participant in this great undertaking.

As mentioned, this is the first time we have gotten to this point. We're going to cover every American. We're going to see to it that they have choice. We're going to see to it that not only are the humanitarian concerns of people with regard to health care met, but that an economic calamity, which is coming unless we do so, will be headed off because of the work that has been done today.

This is a good bill. It is a uniquely American solution to address the insecurities in health care felt by the American people. The burden of costs of health care has been placed on the economy. And the competitive disadvantages experienced by our businesses will be removed.

Today, it marks a major step in this long journey of ours. However, it is not the last step. And while we greet this day with delight, we know that we have a lot of work before us.

My old dad would be pleased. He started this out in 1943 with Harry Truman. And we have been working on it ever since.

And, Madam Speaker, I want to tell you how pleased we are that we can finally say the House is going to consider this and that we are going to pass it.

And I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Caucus and the larger House of Representatives to solving the greatest single humanitarian and health care problem that's faced by our people.

This nation has a proud history of protecting our elders, our newborns, our sick, and those who are the weakest and least capable of taking care of themselves.

We created Social Security during a time of economic calamity. We passed Medicare legislation during a period of civil unrest and a divisive war. Some of our greatest acts of compassion have come at the most difficult and trying of moments.

We are working to accomplish something that is greater than us as Members of Congress, and something which must, should and I hope, will transcend partisan divides and bickering. This has been tried by many Presidents and congresses before. However, this time is different. This time we will be successful. This time we must be successful.

This American solution of ours will help those needing care gain access to the finest medical care in the world. And there's an interesting thing about this country. We have the finest medical care, but a lot of our people can't afford it and don't get it. We're going to cure that.

Not only do we have a chance to do the right thing for our and about our people, but also for our economy. The high cost of health care is not only a part of today's economic woes, but it will cause a still greater problem in the years to come because if you draw on the line -- draw on the graph two lines, the first being the cost of medical care and the second the gross domestic product, the two of them will cross sometime around 2070 or 2080.

We have an opportunity then to prevent the next great economic catastrophe, but we must learn from the current economic crisis that we've inherited. To protect the health and the well being of our citizens and our country, and our help to our businesses to remain competitive, we must be bold. We must be strong, and we must respond to the challenge that we have before us and that we are confronted with now on behalf of our nation's citizens. And we have to address the problem, cure it, and pass this legislation now.

I'm proud to be a part of it.

And I have the privilege of introducing the great majority leader who is going to lead us in that undertaking, Mr. Hoyer.

Majority Leader Hoyer. Before I speak, I would be pleased to yield to my friend the Whip, if he would like to say something.

Majority Leader Hoyer. Thank you very much.

Speaker Pelosi. He's going to get the votes.

Majority Leader Hoyer. Madam Speaker, congratulations to you for your single- minded focus, your purposeful direction of all of us to work together to accomplish this day.

Six decades we have been trying to make sure that every American had the availability of quality, affordable health care -- six decades. There's been a Dingell in every decade.

John Dingell, we owe a great gratitude to your father, because your father was the leader on health care, and you have been a leader on health care.

To Henry Waxman, to Charlie Rangel and to George Miller, who have worked together in an unprecedented fashion, who have said, yes, each of us have jurisdiction, yes, each of us could produce a product, but we believe that this issue is so important that we must come together to produce a product -- a product for the American people.

President Obama has, as Speaker Pelosi indicated today, issued a very strong statement of how pleased he is that this product is today being put on the table and that it will be marked up later this week and perhaps into next week we enter a process of improvement.

As Henry Waxman said, this is not the original document that was introduced or put on the table as a draft. It has been improved. It has responded to the views and concerns of not only those Members of Congress, but those outside Congress, those who are users of health care and those who are providers of health care.

As Chairman Waxman has indicated, they're going to be continuing to consider ways and means to improve this legislation.

As the President indicates, this is an excellent work for the American people.

It seeks to bring costs down and it will bring costs down, not just costs down for government, but more importantly, costs down for individuals and families who are being priced out of the market, who understand that they've got health care now, but are worried about losing it. That's what this issue is about.

And I've had some Americans say, "Don't mess with my health care." We heard what they said. And if they like what they have, they keep what they have. This does not mandate any changes and they will have choice of doctor and hospital. This does not in any way undermine. But what it does do, it gives them the security that if they should lose their job or their economic circumstances should change and they can't afford health insurance that they used to have, now have, this ensures that they will have that insurance.

So as we proceed in this process, let me say to you as the Majority Leader who's talked to you a lot about our schedule, we're on schedule. We're going to be paid for. I don't know if we'll be under budget, but we'll be on budget. We're going to pay for this bill. We're not going to add additional debt to the American people.

And we will produce a product that will give to the American people a sense of security and well being for them, for their husbands, their wives and their children that they so desperately want.

The overwhelming majority of the American public says, "We want health reform." John McCain said, "I want health reform." Hillary Clinton said, "I want health reform." And Barack Obama said, "I want health reform," and the American people overwhelmingly elected him President of the United States.

And I want to tell you, in closing, I've talked to almost every member of our caucus and there is not a member of the caucus who is not for health care reform, to making sure that we bring costs down, make health care affordable and available to all, and make sure that they have the quality that American has to offer.

So again, Madam Speaker, in closing let me congratulate you, John Dingell -- no one here has kept the faith longer and more focused than you have. God bless you, sir.

Chairman Dingell. Thank you.

Majority Leader Hoyer. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Speaker Pelosi. I thank all of you all of you and again join you in saluting the great leadership of President Barack Obama. Without that leadership, this day would not be possible. More importantly, a day when he signs the bill into law, making tremendous progress to the American people on this important issue that is relevant to their economic and physical well-being.

Leader Hoyer mentioned, and I associate myself with his praise of Mr. Dingell, once again, Chairman Dingell and his father in saying the last six decades that every one of those decades has had a Dingell. And that's for sure. Every decade has had a Kennedy as well, and I am so pleased that Patrick Kennedy is here -- his eyes lit up when George Miller mentioned mental health.

And as we gather here, the HELP Committee -- my understanding is that today they will be passing the bill in the United States Senate -- the HELP Committee, will be passing out their bill. So please give our thanks and best wishes to your father, Patrick, because he too was so important in making this day possible.

With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.

Q: Can you address how you're going to deal in committee with the -- I mean, the Blue Dogs, the 40 who signed that letter last week, they have enough Members to significantly change the legislation in committee, and they're still against the public option be implemented right away, and they have reservations about the surtax going in before doing more cost cutting.

How are you going to address your fellow Democrats' concerns in committee while keeping the structure of this bill?

Speaker Pelosi. I'm going to yield to the chairman on that, but to say that we all associate ourselves with any additional cost cutting we can do. We want to squeeze every dollar we can have out of the system to have more savings, to reduce the need for revenues.

And we will have a strong level-playing-field public option, and some of the concerns raised by the Blue Dogs were well taken.

And with that, I will yield to Mr. Waxman, and then Mr. Hoyer.

Chairman Waxman. The Blue Dogs are the Democrats from especially the rural areas, and who have a specific fiscal conservative point of view that many of us share -- they play a very constructive role. I thought their letter last week was an outstanding letter, setting out the issues that concern them and concern all of us.

We are going to have to work through those issues. It's not a correct statement to say they're against a public option. They want some changes in the public option. Some would prefer not to have a public option, but we have to bring everybody together, because a large part of our Democratic Caucus wants a public option, as does the President of the United States.

But their main focus -- and I welcome this -- is to reduce the costs in this legislation, and in that regard we're going to work with them to achieve those goals and to get a bill that all of us can support.

The Democratic Party's a big tent. We have different parts of it pushing for different aspects of the problem, and we all have to come together, compromise, and work out our differences, and then stand behind legislation that will accomplish this important goal.

Speaker Pelosi. Mr. Hoyer? Mr. Leader?

Majority Leader Hoyer. The chairman's absolutely right, I think. But I want to just reiterate for you, when I articulated that every member of the caucus wants to see health reform enacted, that included all 52 members of the Blue Dogs.

The Blue Dogs have a perspective, like all of us. It's not unanimous, but a very significant focus, which is shared by them. But because they are in favor of the objective, I expect and have seen them working very hard to get to a place where we would create the consensus for a significant majority for this bill before we leave here in August.

So I have great confidence in the chairmen, all three chairmen, bringing together a bill, one bill, that will enjoy the broad support of our caucus.

Speaker Pelosi. I might add that under Steny's leadership we'll be bringing to the floor legislation by Baron Hill, George Miller, who else are the co-sponsors on...

Majority Leader Hoyer. Peter Welch.

Speaker Pelosi. Peter Welch, on PAYGO.

Majority Leader Hoyer. And Bobby Scott.

Speaker Pelosi. And Bobby Scott. So a cross-section of our Caucus supporting PAYGO, really an issue that the Blue Dogs have taken the lead on and that the Congress, the Democratic Caucus has adopted. So we thank them for their leadership there.

We are all committed to fiscal soundness. We thank them for their leadership in that regard.

Q: Madam Speaker, can you tell us what the total CBO estimate is on the bill? And can you give us a couple of examples of where you've changed the bill, from the few weeks ago until now?

Speaker Pelosi. Mr. Miller and Mr. Waxman can talk about the changes.

Chairman Rangel. Well, one of the things that we had concern with -- and I have to admit I learned a lot as we moved along, especially the diversity that exists throughout this great country, where people have different needs, people have different ways of providing health care, and not all of it appears to be equitable.

As a result of the deep interest and concern that some Members had, we directed that there would be an investigation, a study, to see where the best possible medicine is being given at the -- at the most efficient way and the most efficient price, and we set aside $10 billion to make up for any inequities that could exist, and that would be handled by the federal administration.

So it's not the end; it's just the beginning. So many reforms, of course, as a result of this, that were in the bill, the people just didn't know where to find them. So we had to bring those things together, and a lot of people were pleased.

The small businesses that we are able to change the threshold, to be able to provide credits, for all of these, small business as well as big, want and many can't afford to provide care for their employees. And we provide incentives for them to do that.

So many of the concerns that had been in the bill, we brought them up, and we're pretty certain -- now, we've got a long way to go, but we really have eased a lot of concern that people have had.

Speaker Pelosi. Mr. Waxman?

Chairman Waxman. The Congressional Budget Office works its own measures of the costs at a process that is laborious and, for many of us, slower than we would like.

As a matter of fact, on our committee, we're going to have a bipartisan briefing by the CBO to try to understand how they come to some of their conclusions.

Some of our members get perplexed when we have very important preventive service that aren't scored as saving any money. I think CBO looks at the idea that maybe people stay alive longer and collect more Social Security, even though we don't have to pay for treatment of diseases that we can prevent.

But I want to go into that when we meet with the CBO soon.

I don't know if we have a specific CBO estimate, but we will have one very soon. And it is going to be in the -- in the context of what we've expected all along, that we are going to be holding down the costs, and that is going to be used to pay for a lot of this bill. And we're going to have need for revenue-raisers as well, which the Ways and Means Committee is providing because it's within their jurisdiction to help us meet that obligation.

Q: Just to follow up on that, Chairman Waxman, it seems that you probably must have some idea of the (inaudible) overall (inaudible) at this point -- I mean, since you're unveiling this bill to the American public, you must have an idea of how much it is going to cost.

Chairman Waxman. Well, I wouldn't want to speculate. I wouldn't want to speculate about exact amounts because CBO is going to come up with their official score, and that's the score we abide by.

So we should get that very soon, and we'll share it with everybody.

Speaker Pelosi. And the bill will be paid for.

Q: (Inaudible) proposed legislation. In this case, what do you see as the role of the President and Mr. Emanuel in helping to get votes in the House and perhaps in helping to pull the Senate toward your vision in the House bill?

Speaker Pelosi. Would any of my colleagues like to address that?

The President's leadership is essential to the success of this legislation. As Mr. Miller said, the American people called out for this in the election. The President has called upon the Congress to pass this legislation for health care to lower costs, improve quality, get better choices and to improve the quality of life of the American people.

Lowering costs is essential to this. As the President said, health care reform is entitlement reform. So a great deal of our fiscal health, to borrow a word, is dependent on this bill being paid for and with its prevention and wellness initiatives, to take down the cost of health care, therefore Medicare, Medicaid, reducing entitlements, lowering the national deficit. This is a priority for all of us. It is a priority for the President.

So the President in his values-based statement about what this means to the health of the American people and to our economy -- this is about our economy as well -- well, his leadership has gotten us to where we are now and will be essential as we go forward.

His leadership will also continue to bring us together. We have our three tenors who have worked in harmony in the House. We continue -- we hope to -- we know that that harmony will continue as we move to conference with the Senate. The President's role will be essential in all of this, whether it's speaking to many audiences, speaking to the American people about this, speaking to the Congress in general, speaking to individual Members, speaking to the aspirations of the American people to have this problem behind them as they go forward.


Chairman Waxman. I've got my answer. What's your question?


Q: My question...

Speaker Pelosi. (Inaudible) solo now.

Q: My question relates to the notion that tax increases should be held in reserve until the recession is over, and they can be applied to reducing the deficit. And also that the only way to reduce health costs is to change the way doctors and hospitals are paid for dealing with a patient writ large, rather than for every little jab that they do.

Chairman Waxman. As we mentioned, the changes in this proposal today, compared to the original draft, includes something on small businesses, to give more small businesses an exemption, not to place a greater burden on them. And we do that by $250,000 and below completely exempted; $250,000 to $400,000 will have a sliding scale. The original draft had it at $100,000 payroll.

The second big change is -- relates to the pharmaceutical area. While there are ideas of how to hold down the costs from the pharmaceutical side of the expenditures, we are -- have in our bill a requirement that the windfall that the pharmaceutical industry received from categorizing people who were in Medicaid as well as Medicare as Medicare instead of Medicaid, and losing the rebate that we used to get, that rebate will be reinstated and the money will be used to close -- to help close that donut hole that seniors face on their pharmaceuticals.

And the last issue that's a major one of the changes is pertinent to your question, so I'm not completely ignoring what you asked. And that is the fact that we have changes in this proposal from the original draft that will hold down the cost of health care by pilot projects of accountable organizations that will organize the delivery of care to reduce the individual fees for services that some people have claimed gives an incentive for more services and more fees.

We'll have accountability organizations, a greater combination of how to manage the delivery of care. And we're continuing to work on other ways to hold down the cost.

Having said that, we cannot hold down the cost sufficiently in health care to do all that we want to do. And so we are going to look to increasing revenues to help pay for this major reform.

Now, these revenue increases are targeted at making sure that health care is affordable, because providing someone with the opportunity to finally get a health insurance policy when in the fact -- in the past they've been discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition or excluded because an insurance company thought that that might be a person who could raise the possibility of more costs for their treatment and therefore exclude them from overage, we can't just have insurance reform without making health insurance affordable by assisting people in buying their insurance coverage. And that is going to require the expenditures not only by cuts in the system, but also by bringing in greater revenues.

I know that Chairman Rangel will talk about the revenue side.

You will get, by the way, a CBO estimate today of the total cost of this bill, and given the speculation of the range, I think that most people expect the range is going to be an amount that CBO will fill in later when they give you...


... the estimates.



And I'm going to yield to Charlie Rangel.

Chairman Rangel. The Congressional Budget Office is not our friend in terms of answering a question like that because they don't record the actual savings that people would feel in their pocketbooks, in their bank accounts, in their everyday conduct of trying to get health care paying off bills.

But it's safe to say as a guideline that when those people who get paid who have stakeholders in this can come together at the White House and say that this bill over 10 years will save the American people $2 trillion, those are real dollars even though they cannot be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

So I'm satisfied that our country, our economy, individuals will be saving money by the investment that we make now.

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you all very much.

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Dem Senator on Speaker Pelosi's National Energy Tax: "We Don't Want to Be a Sucker"

As the House Democratic Leadership tries to gather support for their massive small business tax and government takeover of health care, they are finding reluctance from many in their own caucus. Why? Well, many Democrats who walked the plank and voted for the Speaker’s unpopular national energy tax faced a blistering reaction back home, and the Senate looks unlikely to act on the legislation – meaning House Democrats got “BTU-ed” all over again.

Roll Call this morning reported on the Democratic House Members’ unease, and the hurdle it is creating:

“Democrats who helped the sweeping climate change bill squeak through before jetting home for the July Fourth break got a surprisingly ugly homecoming, encountering a barrage of protests, attack ads and negative press. Police turned up at a local protest aimed at Rep. Allen Boyd (Fla.), a leader of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition. Freshman Rep. John Adler (N.J.) told a local paper he got shoved.”

“The bruising endured by the moderates — along with serious substantive concerns —prompted them last week to derail the planned Friday rollout of the health care bill. And it presents a continuing challenge to leaders hoping to wrap work on the package this month. ‘They are completely and totally rattled,’ one senior Democratic aide said of the centrists. ‘I’ve never seen them as bad as they are now.’”

Those Democrats are right to be worried, since Politico finds little enthusiasm for Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax in the Senate:

“President Barack Obama’s plan for climate change legislation faces an extraordinarily tough climb in the Senate. For proof, look no further than to some of Obama’s closest allies.”

“‘We’ve got to be very careful with what we do with this legislation,’ Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a near—constant cable surrogate during Obama’s presidential campaign, told Missouri talk radio show host Mike Ferguson last week. ‘We need to be a leader in the world, but we don’t want to be a sucker.’”

“When it comes to climate change, McCaskill and other Midwestern Democrats are putting their home-state concerns ahead of one of the president’s biggest first-year priorities; many of them fear that the legislation, which narrowly passed the House earlier this month, will hurt manufacturing- and coal-dependent areas that are already struggling.”

Republicans have a better solution. Our “all of the above” plan will lower energy costs, clean up the environment, and create millions of new American jobs. When will the Democratic leaders realize that we need a serious plan to help our economy and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, not the job-killing boondoggle like Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax?

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Monday, July 13, 2009

With Cap-and-Trade Proving Unworkable, It's Time for Plan B, Say Carbon Tax Advocates

/PRNewswire/ -- The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill barely passed the House and appears to be faltering in the Senate; it's time for Congress to consider a more straightforward alternative to the unwieldy cap-and-trade approach, a coalition of environmental groups told the Senate Monday. At a Senate briefing today, a panel of scientific, economic and legal experts discussed the drawbacks of cap-and-trade and advocated a direct tax on carbon emissions with revenue returned to the public, preferably through payroll taxes reductions, as the best approach to passing effective climate legislation.

Panelists who spoke at the briefing included *Dr. James Hansen*, leading climate scientist; *Dr. Robert Shapiro*, Co-founder and Chairman of Sonecon and the U.S. Climate Task Force, and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce; *Cecil Corbin-Mark*, Deputy Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Co-Coordinator of Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change; *Professor Janet Milne* of Vermont Law School, contributing author of "The Reality of Carbon Taxes in the 21st Century." *Brent Blackwelder*, President of Friends of the Earth, moderated. The briefing was hosted by the Carbon Tax Center (, Climate Crisis Coalition (, and Citizens Climate Lobby (

Last Thursday, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer announced that the Senate's climate change bill won't be ready until some time after lawmakers return from August recess, a month later than previously planned. The delay raises doubts about whether the current bill can garner the votes to pass.

The House bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by only the slimmest of margins (219-212) after last-minute deal-making further weakened its provisions and ballooned the legislation to over 1,400 pages. The vote on the bill, authored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), broke along partisan lines, with only eight Republicans supporting the measure, and several progressive and environmentally-oriented Democrats voting against the weakened measure.

"The political weakness of Waxman-Markey is actually a positive sign for the climate," said Marshal Saunders, president of Citizens Climate Lobby. "Cap-and-trade is a very tough sell in the Senate. If Congress has any hope of passing meaningful climate change legislation, it will have to consider Plan B - a revenue-neutral tax on carbon pollution. Waxman-Markey stalling in the Senate could be a turning point towards something that will actually work."

"The Senate must do better than the House," said Tom Stokes, Coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition. "Cap-and-trade tries to hide the carbon price, which gives opponents license to make outrageous claims about its cost. In contrast, the cost of a revenue-neutral carbon tax would be clearly known. With unemployment at 9.5% and consumer spending down, using carbon revenues to boost every worker's take-home pay will help address both the climate and the economic crisis."

"President Obama stresses the need for open, rigorous debate to develop sound policy. Supporters of the Waxman-Markey bill maintain that it is the most important piece of environmental legislation ever, yet they cut off discussion of direct carbon pricing: a simpler, more effective policy supported by most economists and a growing spectrum of concerned citizens. Not a single hearing addressed or explored revenue-neutral carbon pricing as the principle mechanism for containing greenhouse gases," Stokes said.

"The compromised and fundamentally flawed Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade would lock-in an ineffectual approach that would accomplish little, while blocking effective action for years," said Daniel Rosenblum, co-director of the Carbon Tax Center. "The main beneficiaries would be Wall Street and polluters who want to be protected from having to take prompt action. The Senate should start over with a simpler and more understandable carbon pricing system that will do what cap-and-trade won't: encourage energy efficiency, clean renewable energy and prevent catastrophic climate change."

Briefing panelist and leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, argued the Waxman-Markey approach would fail to reduce CO2 emissions enough to prevent catastrophic warming. "Continuing to increase burning coal, oil and gas will soon drive atmospheric CO2 well over 400 ppm and ignite a devil's cauldron of melted icecaps, bubbling permafrost, and combustible forests from which there will be no turning back," Hansen said. "The Waxman-Markey bill locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like 'cap-and-trade' scheme... It sets meager targets -- 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year's level, far short of the trajectory needed to return atmospheric CO2 to safe levels -- and the bill sabotages even these by permitting unverifiable 'offsets,' by which other nations are paid for projects, most of which would have been undertaken anyway. A far superior alternative to cap-and-trade is a rising carbon fee, which provides the best incentive to move to ever higher energy efficiencies and carbon-free energy sources. As engineering and cultural tipping points are reached, the phase-over to post-fossil energy sources will accelerate."

Briefing panelist Robert Shapiro, former Under Secretary of Commerce, pointed out that the trading component of cap-and-trade -- buying and selling permits to release CO2 -- would also create a trillion-dollar market in carbon futures and derivatives that could crash financial markets again. As he wrote in April, "The unavoidable volatility of the prices of emission permits... would attract furious financial speculation, since speculators live off of volatile prices. And we now know the risks that we all run when rampant speculation occurs in financial instruments tied to our economic foundations, such as housing -- or energy."

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Briefing panelist and Vermont Law School professor Janet Milne cited the carbon tax's recent track record outside the U.S. as evidence of its political strength. In British Columbia, Premier Gordon Campbell and his Liberal Party passed a revenue-neutral carbon tax last summer, and despite an aggressive campaign against it, went on to win reelection in May.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lt. Governor Cagle Appoints Richard Smith to New Aviation Authority

The office of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle announced today Richard Smith has been appointed to serve on the new Georgia Aviation Authority. The Authority will serve as the governing body for all state aviation assets, providing aviation services for the entire state and overseeing all state aviation operations.

“Richard’s proven leadership ability and 30 years of piloting experience give the Authority a truly capable member who will do a tremendous job as we begin this new era in Georgia aviation,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “His service will be an invaluable asset to the state and I am truly honored to have him represent my office in this capacity.”

Smith, an Atlanta-area attorney, is the co-founder and managing partner of the law firm Smith, Ronick & Corbin, LLC, which specializes in transactional law. Smith started his firm in 1981 after beginning his law career at Hansell, Post, Brandon & Dorsey in Atlanta. He is a member of the Real Property Law and Aviation Law Sections of the State Bar of Georgia and a past President of the Real Property Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.

Smith holds an extensive aviation background beginning his aircraft piloting in 1983. He became involved with Angel Flight of Georgia and Mercy Flight Southeast as a volunteer pilot, primarily flying patients in need of organ transplants and often coordinating with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

An Atlanta native, Smith graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and earned his law degree from the Emory University School of Law. He currently lives in Sandy Springs with his wife Sherri. They have three children, two of which currently practice law with Smith at his firm.

Smith recently started his two-year term on the Authority which began its operations July 1. The Authority was enacted by the General Assembly passing Senate Bill 85 during the 2009 Legislative Session. SB 85 consolidated Georgia’s aircraft into the new Aviation Authority through which all of the state’s aircraft can be managed with the goal to gain the maximum safety and efficiency.

Specifically, the purpose of the Authority will be to:

Acquire, operate, maintain, house, and dispose of all state aviation assets
Provide aviation services and oversight of state aircraft and aviation operations to ensure the safety of state air travelers and aviation property
Provide for the efficient operation of state aircraft

Supporters of the bill say the new Authority will provide greater resources across the state for agencies such as the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) and the Departments of Transportation (DOT), Natural Resources, Forestry Commission and the Board of Regents. The Georgia Sheriffs Association is in full support of this legislation to help streamline and provide greater efficiency to their search-and-rescue operations throughout the sate.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

With unemployment skyrocketing, Libertarians suggest real stimulus

America’s third largest party Thursday criticized Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress for suggesting that rising unemployment can be solved by passing another “stimulus” government expansion, or by spending current appropriations more quickly. Libertarians propose an alternate package of tax and regulatory relief that will create the jobs Americans need.

When Congress passed President Barack Obama’s “stimulus” package early this year the White House stated the spending expansion would keep unemployment below eight percent. It instead skyrocketed to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, which Republicans blame on not spending the money fast enough and Democrats claim is reason to pass another, similar bill.

“While Democrats are proposing another several hundred billion dollars on dog parks and ACORN recruiting and Republicans are complaining Obama isn’t spending stimulus money fast enough, Libertarians are focused on growth policies that create the jobs Americans need,” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director.

“We can start by preserving the 2001 and 2003 pro-growth tax cuts, scale back taxes on investments so job creators can expand their businesses, reduce taxes on individuals so Americans will have more money to save and meet basic needs and reduce unnecessary and unneeded federal regulations that are stopping employers from creating jobs,” said Ferguson. “The Libertarian Party is the only party in America with a proven plan to create the jobs Americans need.”

“Poll after poll shows Americans are skeptical of trying to spend our way to prosperity. Poll after poll also shows they agree with the Libertarian Party that government cannot create wealth. It’s no wonder that’s why Americans are showing a growing interest in the Libertarian Party’s common-sense, reasonable and proven job growth policies.”

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Boehner Says Speaker Pelosi’s National Energy Tax & Dems’ Government Takeover of Health Care Will Make It Impossible to Create Jobs

At a news conference this morning, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said if Democrats want to protect and create jobs, they should scrap job-killing legislation like Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax and their government takeover of health care. These job-killing bills, during the middle of a recession and especially since the ‘stimulus’ isn’t working, will harm our economy and undermine efforts to help families and small businesses. Following are Boehner’s remarks at the news conference:

“All of this talk about a second stimulus bill has been rather interesting. I think it is an admission on the part of the Administration that, you know, their stimulus plan is not working. And so there are conversations about how we get to, how do we grow jobs. I found it interesting over the last couple of days to hear the Vice President, Vice President Biden, and the President mention the fact that they didn’t realize how difficult of an economic circumstance we were in. Now this is the greatest fabrication I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress. I’ve sat through those meetings at the White House with the President and the Vice President.

“Trust me, there’s not one person that sat in those rooms that didn’t know how serious our economic crisis was. We tried to explain to the President that growing government was not going to get America back to work again. And that by allowing small businesses and families to keep more of what they earn – they are the real engine of economic growth in America. If we really are serious about creating jobs, we ought to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn.

“The second thing we should do if we’re concerned about growing jobs in America is that we should not pass this national energy tax, which is going to raise the taxes on all Americans – less money for them to spend – and millions of American jobs are going to get shipped overseas as a result. And if you look at their proposal on health care, again we’re talking about a $1.5 trillion tax increase – less money for the American people to spend on themselves, less money for American businesses – and if that’s not bad enough, we’re going to ruin our health care system and we’re going to tax employers if they don’t provide health insurance.

“So we are killing jobs with every proposal we see here. The first thing we should do here is practice the Hippocratic Oath. First, do no harm. Let’s get rid of the national energy tax idea, let’s get rid of the idea of raising taxes on this big government takeover of health care that will make it impossible to create jobs and it will cost Americans millions of additional jobs.”

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Judicial Watch Raises Ethics Concerns about Judge Sotomayor Prejudicial Statements, Discriminatory Affiliation and Improper Political Activities

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it sent a letter of complaint on July 7 to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) expressing concern that Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly violated the Judicial Code of Conduct through her statements and behavior and
is therefore unfit to serve on the High Court.

According to the letter signed by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

"I write to you out of concern that out-of-court statements and activity by Judge Sonia Sotomayor violate various provisions of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges ("Code of Conduct"). In fact, Judge Sotomayor may be in violation of the Code of Conduct as a result of the following:

· Repeated prejudicial and racist comments.

· Recent membership in an organization that
practices "invidious discrimination" based on sex.

· Improper political activity.

The Judicial Code of Conduct notes that the duty to "act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary applies to all the judge's activities, including the discharge of the judge's adjudicative and administrative responsibilities. The duty to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid comment or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment, prejudice or bias."

Judge Sotomayor's statements and activities, Judicial Watch contends, have repeatedly violated this and other canons of the Code of Conduct. Among the evidence presented by Judicial Watch to support its contention:

Sotomayor's Prejudiced and Racist Comments: During an October 2001 speech at the University of California Berkeley, Sotomayor said the following: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Judge Sotomayor has also promoted the idea that "gender and national origins" of judges "may and will make a difference in our judging."

Sotomayor's Membership in an Organization That Practices "Invidious Discrimination" Based on Sex: According to Canon 2 (c) of the Judicial Code of Conduct: "A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin." Judge Sotomayor recently resigned her membership from the Belizean Grove, a private organization consisting entirely of professional women that claims
to represent the counterweight to the "elite old boys' network." In her recent Senate questionnaire Judge Sotomayor wrote the following with respect to her organizational affiliations: "None of the above organizations, other than the Belizean Grove, discriminates on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin." Judge Sotomayor stated that the group does not "invidiously" discriminate but the evidence seems otherwise.

Sotomayor's Improper Political Activity: On April 17, 2009, Judge Sotomayor made a political speech to the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association. Among the statements made by Judge Sotomayor during that speech: "The wide coalition of groups that joined forces to elect America's first Afro-American President was awe inspiring in both the
passion the members of the coalition exhibited in their efforts and the discipline they showed in the execution of their goals... Our challenge as lawyers and court related professionals and staff, as citizens of the world is to keep the spirit of the common joy we shared on November 4 alive in our everyday existence."

Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct plainly states that "A judge should refrain from political activity," and that a judge should not "publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office."

"Judge Sotomayor seems to be in violation of the ethical guidelines that governs the conduct of judges. Frankly, this apparent misconduct ought to give the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate further reason to reject her nomination for the High Court," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Biden Admits "Stimulus" Spending Scheme Is Falling Short, Says Dems "Misread the Economy"

Washington Democrats are officially all over the map on the spending binge known as the “stimulus.” Vice President Joe Biden was one of many Democrats scrambling over the weekend to defend the trillion-dollar “stimulus” that, by any objective account, isn’t working. The Obama Administration’s latest excuse for the bill’s poor returns? On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, the Vice President claimed, “The truth is, we and everyone else misread the economy.”

This change in rhetoric comes less than two months after the Vice President issued his initial report on the “stimulus,” in which he said the package was “ahead of schedule.”

Here’s another example of Democrats’ mixed messages on wasteful stimulus spending:
Yesterday on ABC, the Vice President asserted, “There were predictions that this was going to be wasteful and all these terrible projects were going to be out there, and we’re wasting money. Well, that dog hasn’t barked yet.”

Yet just last month, in a roundtable to discuss the “success” of the stimulus, the Vice President admitted, “We know some of this money is going to be wasted… Some people are being scammed already.”

The “dog” to which the Vice President referred is now barking, and her name is Ellie Mae, the bloodhound House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) sent out looking for jobs created by the “stimulus” in a lighthearted web video released last week. In an appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Boehner underscored the fact that the “stimulus” bill isn’t working and reiterated Republicans’ support for a real stimulus – one that empowers families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn so they can save, invest, and create jobs:

“This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, and jobs and the fact is it turned into nothing but spending, spending and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy… All it does is fund more government. If you really want to get the economy going, you have to trust small businesses and the American people to reinvest their own money. So we ought to try a real stimulus bill and allow them to keep more of what they earn.”

As the “stimulus” continues to fall short of its goals, how will Democrats try to move the goalposts next? What rhetoric will they use to backtrack off of previous predictions and statements? And, most importantly, how hard will Democrats continue to block a real stimulus that trusts small businesses – the real engine of our economy – to create jobs? As Congress prepares to begin a busy stretch of legislative action over the next four weeks and unemployment continues to rise, these are questions the American people need answered.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Boehner Statement Thanking Veterans & Troops on July 4th

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement in advance of Independence Day 2009:

“Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, America’s Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence. In standing against the tyranny of what was then the most powerful empire in the world, the 56 signers of that document unleashed revolutionary ideas that are affecting the course of human events to this very day. In addition to declaring a separation from Great Britain, the Founders also affirmed their belief ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’

“Today, as we celebrate America’s birth, let us also remember that the precious liberties we enjoy have been defended by many generations of patriots guided by the ‘Spirit of ’76.’ On this day, we say a grateful ‘thank you’ to all veterans and all troops serving in uniform. It is only because of their faith and sacrifice that we are free.

“Let us also remember and pray for those around the world seeking to establish the vision of the Founding Fathers: that governments derive the power ‘from the consent of the governed.’ May they one day find freedom, and may America always remain the preeminent symbol of liberty.”

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Statement of U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis On June 2009 employment numbers

/PRNewswire / -- U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued the following statement on the June 2009 Employment Situation report released today:

"Today's news is a reminder of the severity of the economic problem that this administration inherited and continues to illustrate the pressing needs of American working families.

"The president and I are keenly aware of the challenges Americans are facing and their struggle is the single-most important focus of this administration. We will not be satisfied until we are seeing robust monthly job growth, delivering income gains to American families across the economic spectrum.

"When this administration took office, the economy was shedding jobs at a rate of 700,000 per month. This past June our economy lost 467,000 jobs, bringing the total number of jobs lost since this recession began to 6.5 million. The overall unemployment rate increased to 9.5 percent.

"As the administration's policies take hold there are signs that the economy is gaining strength. Consumer confidence is rising and the housing and financial markets are stabilizing.

"Through our urgent efforts we are helping millions of Americans who have lost their jobs to regain their footing in the workplace and to lay the foundation for a new and robust economy.

"The department has released more than $57 million in National Emergency Grants to help communities cope with mass layoff events and other emergencies.

"We additionally have released $1.7 billion in incentive payments to states that update their unemployment insurance eligibility requirements so that more workers -- including recent entrants to the workforce and part-time workers -- can access benefits. So far 25 states and the District of Columbia have qualified for these payments.

"We are moving swiftly to protect workers who have lost their jobs and to provide new training opportunities so that workers can upgrade their skills and prepare for new employment in growing and emerging sectors like green jobs and health care.

"The Department of Labor recently awarded 98 grants, totaling more than $25 million, through our Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. This program provides approximately 15,000 veterans with job training to help them succeed in civilian careers.

"It is also of vital importance that we help our next generation succeed in the workforce. We have distributed $50 million for Youth Build programs to expand services to at-risk youth and our Summer Youth Employment program will help employ more than 200,000 youth this summer. These efforts come in addition to the $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funds recently announced by the Vice President to help states support their education budgets.

"The Recovery Act is providing much needed relief to the economy. At this very moment, 1,900 highway projects are already under way as $19 billion in transportation construction funds have been put to work. An additional $4 billion in loans and grants are creating jobs by bringing broadband service to un-served and underserved communities across America.

"We are living through a time of extraordinary challenges, but Americans have long demonstrated an ability to face adversity with the dignity and strength necessary to achieve change. As I meet with workers all across this country, I am even more confident that we can meet these challenges with the same resilient attitude and commitment to innovation that has characterized our nation throughout its history."

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Finalists for Supreme Court

From Landmark Communications via Facebook:

The Atlanta Journal's Jim Galloway is reporting the nine finalists today for the open Supreme Court seat being vacted by Leah Sears.

Text below here is Galloway's:

"Your next Supreme Court justice can be found here"
1:53 pm July 1, 2009, by Jim Galloway

The Judicial Nominating Commission just handed to Gov. Sonny Perdue its list of nominations for candidates to fill the state Supreme Court seat vacated by Leah Sears."

"Our money is on David Nahmias, currently the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District."

"Here’s the entire list:

• Stephen Louis A. Dillard – Of Counsel, James, Bates, Pope & Spivey; Macon;
• James P. Kelly III – Managing partner of Kelly Law Firm; Atlanta;
• David E. Nahmias – U.S. Attorney; Northern District of Georgia;
• Samuel D. Ozburn –Superior Court Judge; Alcovy Judicial Circuit;
• William M. Ray II – Superior Court Judge; Gwinnett County;
• Craig L. Schwall Sr. – Superior Court Judge; Fulton County;
• Mary E. Staley – Superior Court Judge; Cobb County;
• Benjamin W. Studdard III – State Court Chief Judge; Henry County;
• and Rocco E. Testani – Partner, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; Atlanta."
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