Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Fixes" bill passes the House

The House of Representatives has passed the bill that

was "fixed" by the Senate. This moves completes the top priority on President Obama's domestic policy. The bill, which passed with a 220-207 vote, will now go to the President to get signed into law. Among the fixed parts were provisions to shift government funding of student loans away from commercial banks and towards new educational initiatives, because previously, commercial banks have gotten federal subsidies for student loans. The bill also added over $60 million to the original plan, partly to expand insurance subsidies for lower and middle class families.
President Obama must feel that a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders with the passing of this bill by the House of Representatives. His top priority for here at home has finally come to pass, even though it was later than he wanted it. Last year, the healthcare reform had recieved no Republican support in any major votes, so the legislation must have been altered enough to appeal to enough Republicans that the bill could be passed. As stated in a previous blog, the executive order involving federal funding of abortions also helped to gain key Republican votes that ensured the passage of the legislation.

Battle over Benefits

The Senate is again battling over a short-term extension of unemployment benefits, right before the two-week spring recess. The real issue at hand is whether Congress should explicitly state where the almost $10 billion per month funds are going to come from, or just go ahead without designating how to pay for the program. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants to eliminate additional government spending to pay for the bill. On the other hand, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) believes that the bill needs to be passed immediately, because the recession qualifies this bill as emergency. Currently, federal unemployment benefits start after the state-funded 26 weeks are over. Congress has approved up to 73 additional weeks, which it funds.
I can't decide where I stand on this issue; on one hand, we already have enough federal debt, and we don't need any more. But my problem with Coburn's stand is what programs are going to be cut to provide the funding. And on the other hand, I agree with Durbin that the recession does make this issue an emergency, because the jobless rate is staying rather steady at a high level, and to really end the recession, that rate needs to decrease, and this program would help encourage that. So, both sides have valid points.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Court and "Under God"

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, upheld the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The court rejected two legal challenges brought by Michael Newdow, a Sacramento athiest. "The Pledge is constitutional," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded." In 2002, Newdow sued his daughter's school for having students recite the Pledge. The case reached the Supreme Court, but was dismissed because Newdow didn't have custody of his daughter, on who's behalf he was suing.
I completely agree with this decision, because the Pledge of Allegiance has been recited for years and years, and it shows, as Judge Carlos Bea said, a unity for our country, and that we are proud to be Americans, and no matter what religion someone is, the Pledge should incite patriotic feelings in that individual, if he or she is proud to be an American.

Federal Funding of Abortions

President Obama has signed an executive order that ensures that no federal money can be used for elective abortions. The President agreed to the order to appease the anti-abortion Republicans and to make sure that his healthcare reform bill was passed. There was a bloc of House members that wanted to make sure that the current policy did not change. The order prohibits federal funding of abortions, except for instances of rape, incest, or danger to the woman's life.
This executive order is a very good move, mostly because President Obama was desperate to get his healthcare reform bill passed, and this gained him many important votes in the House, including anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.).

Foreclosure Relief Effort

Three people briefed on the matter said that on Friday, the Obama administration will announce a plan that will reduce the amount that some people owe on their home loans. The plan is expected to include at least 3 months of temporary assistance for borrowers who have lost their jobs and an expanded effort to allow borrowers to refinance into Federal Housing Administration loans. The previous and current foreclosure prevention programs have been a failure to date, including the $75 billion foreclosure relief effort program. According to Moody's, nearly 1 in 3 homeowners with a mortgage owe more than their property is worth.
This plan, I think, will help those that are very much in debt from their mortgage bounce back from this recession, stimulating the lowest bracket of homeowners back into the economy. From this, each economic class will then get stimulated as well. This is what the administration is hoping for, I believe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Don't ask, don't tell"

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has announced that the Pentagon will ease the enforcement of it's "don't ask, don't tell" policy of allowing gays to serve openly in the military, effective in 30 days. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was first enacted in 1993. Among others, President Obama and Adm. Mike Mullen are supporting the change in policy, which will apply to all current cases. 69% of Americans feel that openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military, whereas 27% were opposed to it, according to a Feb. 12-15 CNN poll.
The gay movement has been such a hot topic lately, and I feel that this is an important step in forwarding the movement as well. There is no reason that openly gay people should be prevented from serving in the military any more than from preventing minorities from serving, especially because they signed up for it and it's what they want to do.

"Fixed" bill clears the Senate

The United States Senate has passed a slightly altered version of the heathcare bill, and it will go on to the House for final approval. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that the Democrats have the votes to pass the measure, which will then go to President Obama to be signed into law. The bill, which passed with a 56-43 vote, makes small changes to the bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday, including removing two small student loan funding stipulations.
I have to say, the passing of the healthcare reform bills has happened rather suddenly, I think. I remember blogging about how President Obama wishes for the reforms to be passed by Christmas, and then how that didn't happen. I, personally, haven't heard much about the bills in the months since then, and then all of a sudden, we have new healthcare laws!