Monday, September 05, 2011
The Postal Service may have to shut down completely by this winter, unless Congress takes action to help it make a $5.5 billion payment due this month. The postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, told The New York Times yesterday "If Congress doesn’t act, we will default." Donahoe has advocated cost-cutting measures, such as closing nearly 4,000 post office locations, laying off 120,000 workers, and eliminating Saturday mail delivery.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Last week, we discussed the state of the nation’s job market, and the news was not good. No new jobs were created in August, meaning unemployment is stuck at 9.1 percent. How to get the job market moving will be the subject of intense debate this week, as Congress returns from its summer recess and the President outlines his strategy. We’ll also see the first meeting of the deficit reduction committee responsible for cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget. So it’s a big week for Congressmen and women, who recently haven’t shown a fondness for compromise.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
By Justin Krebs : IAFC Blogger
-Justin Krebs, It's A Free Country blogger.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) President Obama says nearly a million American workers, many of them in construction, will be unemployed within a year if Congress delays passage of the federal transportation bill. The president spoke at a press conference in the Rose Garden at The White House, where he was joined by some of those workers.
"If we don't extend this bill by the end of September, all of them will be out of a job because of politics in Washington, and that's just not acceptable," Obama said.
The House is proposing to renew the transportation bill at $230 billion over six years. The Senate wants to spend $109 billion over two years. The sides must be reconciled by September 30th to avoid interruption to building projects around the country.
"This bill provides funding for highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems and other essential systems that keep our people and our commerce moving quickly and safely,"Obama said.
The Senate bill would keep U.S. transportation spending at current levels. The House bill would constitute a 35% annual cut. Both bills are less than what the president has proposed: $500 billion, with another $53 billion for competitive high speed rail grants.
Petra Todorovich of the Regional Plan Association--a planning group covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut--called the house bill "a brutal cut that will certainly be felt around the region in jobs and in the condition of our roads, bridges and transit systems."
The president said if the transportation bill is allowed to expire, 4,000 workers will immediately be furloughed. He added that if Congress remains at an impasse ten days after that, $1 billion in highway funds will be lost for good.
President Obama also called on Congress to extend authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. When the House and Senate deadlocked on the issue in July, the FAA endured a partial shut down for 13 days. The move threw 4,000 agency employees out of work and interrupted hundreds of airport construction projects. Thousands of construction workers around the U.S. lost two weeks on the job and the the federal government was not able to collect more than $350 million in taxes on airline tickets.
The president also proposed an initiative aiming at cutting waste in transportation spending and giving states greater control in choosing projects.
"No more bridges to nowhere," he said. "No more projects that are simply funded because of somebody pulling strings."
He said that at the urging of his Jobs Council, he'd be directing federal agencies to identify high priority infrastructure projects that are already funded and then "expedite permitting decisions and reviews necessary to get construction underway more quickly while still protecting, safety, public health and the environment."
US DOT secretary Ray LaHood, who joined the president at the podium, continued the theme of linking transportation to jobs on his blog: " It's time to have a serious conversation in Congress about making smart investments while interest rates are at historical lows and unemployment is high." The president wants to publicly have that conversation on Tuesday, September 7th, when he's requested a joint session of Congress to lay out his job creation plan.
Today, Obama said such spending was urgent not only to create jobs but to stop from falling behind countries that are spending at a healthy clip on roads, railways, mass transit and airports. He said that ten years ago, U.S. infrastructure ranked sixth globally -- but now ranks 23rd.
"We invest half of much in our infrastructure as we did fifty years ago with more than one-and-a-half the number of people," he said. "Everybody can see the consequences. That's unacceptable for a country that has always dreamed big and built big, from the transcontinental railroads to the interstate highway system."
UPDATE: 4:07PM: Congressman John Mica, the Florida republican who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released a statement about the president's speech. “In the interest of getting Americans back to work and moving vital transportation legislation, Republicans are committed to working with the President and Congressional Democrats," he said, before blaming Democrats for the funding stalemate. "During their control, they neglected aviation legislation for more than four years and left major transportation legislation in the ditch for more than a year."
Mica has been vocal about wanting a six-year authorization bill, and floated one last month. But it sounds like he's willing to make concessions. "I will agree to one additional highway program extension," his statement read, "this being the eighth of the overdue transportation reauthorization."
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance (R-7) discusses what he's been hearing from his constituents while Congress is in recess and what he expects to happen in Washington in September when Congress reconvenes.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Congress has a super committee, and we're looking for our own. Do you have an interest in the issues, and the problem-solving skills to tackle them? While politicians in Washington haggle over spending cuts and new tax revenues, we want to look at the solutions put together by regular Americans. Over the next few months as 12 members of Congress and the Senate meet, we'll also be covering some of the possible solutions for the country's debt challenges. We need your help. Fill out the questionnaire below and you could get chosen to help The Takeaway, The Brian Lehrer Show and It's A Free Country try and solve our nation's problems.
Friday, August 12, 2011
The countdown to December 23 has begun for the Congressional "super committee" that's tasked with reducing the nation’s debt. Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named the last three members: Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California and Rep. Chris Von Hollen of Maryland. Will the committee be able to compromise, particularly as each party begins to prepare for the heavy political sparring yet to come out of the 2012 presidential election?
Thursday, August 11, 2011
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which Congress passed last week. The bipartisan committee is made up of six Senators and six Representatives, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats represented. These are the same Democrats and Republicans who spent weeks and months in a deadlock over the national debt. The committee must produce debt-reducing legislation by November 23 — what is the likelihood that they will be successful?
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Many Americans were frustrated with Congress's inability to agree on a debt reduction plan up until the final moments before the August 2 deadline. As Congressional Democrats and Republicans refused to cooperate, their in-fighting was threatening the economy and holding the American public hostage, helpless to take action. We wondered if there were any parallels between the situation on Capitol Hill and the Stanford Prison Experiment, a simulation study on the psychology of imprisonment that took place at Stanford University in the summer of 1971. So we consulted some of the people involved in that experiment.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
A central feature of the deal Congress reached last week to raise the country's debt limit was the creation of a so-called "Super Committee." Made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, the super committee is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings by November 23. But who's serving on the committee and how, exactly, do they propose reaching bipartisan agreement when Congress is seemingly more partisan than ever?
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
By Alec Hamilton : Assistant Producer, WNYC News
The always irrepressible Charlie Rangel is holding a fundraiser and birthday bash tonight, headlined by Aretha Franklin. It's A Free Country caught up with the Congressman for a few words in a coffee shop at Rockefeller Center, where he had just finished an appearance on MSNBC.
Does a fundraiser mean ...
Friday, August 05, 2011
By Frank James
Friday, August 05, 2011
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Thursday that Congress has struck a deal to fund the Federal Aviation Administration, ending a weeks-long partisan impasse that kept 4,000 FAA workers off the job, and tens of thousands out of work in airport construction. The Senate will ensure that a deal can be made before lawmakers leave for August vacation, and the bill will fund the agency through September 16.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Democratic candidate David Weprin discusses his campaign to replace Anthony Weiner for the congressional seat representing NY-9 and what he would do if elected to Congress.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Despite Congress finally passing a debt deal and President Obama signing off on the plan yesterday, the national mood was not celebratory. It's been a bad week for the economy, and it appears that it will only get worse. Last Friday, G.D.P. data showed disappointing economic activity in the nation's second quarter, and this week the Commerce Department released a report showing consumer spending fell in June. New employment figures, the economic indicator used to gauge growth, will be released Friday, and many are expecting them to be dismal.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday Democrats are prepared to give in to House Republicans in the two-week old standoff over the Federal Aviation Administration. But other Democrats appear less willing to give in and could put a kink in Reid's plan.
UPDATE: Democrats have walked that back, and now say there won't be a deal, setting the stage to keep the partial shutdown going until September. Read the latest HERE.
Reid told reporters he's prepared to accept the House's version of a bill temporarily reauthorizing the FAA. If no other senator objects that means the stare-down will end and the FAA can soon reopen.
"Sometimes you have to step back and find out what's best for the country," Reid said Tuesday.
Minutes later, a spokesman for Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-Va.), emailed to say: "Not over til it's over." (Note: so true -- TN learned minutes later Democrats wouldn't agree to the House's FAA bill.)
Reid would need the agreement of all senators to go ahead with his plan to accept the House GOP bill, send it to the president, and re-open the FAA. That statement from the Rockefeller aide suggests that agreement may not be easy to get.
Indeed, a Senate Democratic aide emailed moments ago to say the situation is "at an impasse."
Here's a transcript of Reid's remarks. You can listen to the audio here.
Todd Zwillich: If Republicans don't accept a clean temporary extension to the FAA after you're on the floor by the end of the day will you accept the House version and re-open the FAA?
Senator Reid: Yes. I have said we have 80,000 jobs at least on the line. In Nevada, as an example, we have a new airport tower there that they started the construction about two weeks ago, all those people have been laid off. That's a huge project, nearly a $100 million project.
Barbara Boxer just told me they have problem with the control tower in Palm Springs and as I understood it they've shut down the construction on that and they only have one there so that's difficult.
The Essential Air Services is a program I believe in but I also believe that $3500 per passenger is a little extreme, that's what Ely Neva is and I do my best to protect the state but sometimes you have to be reasonable, I think, as we learned with this big deal we've just done. Sometimes you have to step back and do what's best by the country and not be bound by some of your own personal issues. I'm willing to give that up I hope the other Senators would do the same.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
After a day of Congressional leaders of both parties courting skeptics in their rank-and-file, the House of Representatives passed a deal to raise the debt ceiling and slash federal spending by a vote of 269-161. The legislation is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate today at noon. Among the 161 "no" votes were both Democrats and many Tea Party Republicans, united in opposition for ideologically different reasons. One of those Democrats who voted against the bill was Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who is a member of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.