Another big birthday takes place this weekend, as Lucille Ball turns 100! We love Lucy, but we sure don’t love our Governor sticking his head in the sand and refusing to take action to help protect Nebraska. Here’s your Roundup:
The More You Know: Gov. Heineman would have done well to attend our briefing on pipeline regulations for routing and siting yesterday–where it was confirmed over and over again that not only do states have the right to determine routing of pipelines, it is the state’s responsibility to do so. Instead, he spoke out against the special session proposed by Ken Haar to discuss routing issues and environmental concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Taking his irresponsibility a step further, Heineman suggested Sen. Nelson call his president and ask for the pipeline to be rerouted. Not only would that be illegal, Heineman’s childish antics are downright unnerving. Read here.
Join us tonight at 9 p.m. in front of the Governor’s Mansion to show him Nebraskans are here to hold him accountable for his irresponsibility an inaction.
Wrong-Way Jon: Jon Bruning has another illicit incident to add to his long list. This time, he misrepresented the internationally-renowned hunting and fishing gear marketer, Cabela’s, as supporting his Senate campaign, which they do not. Read here.
Job Growth in July: The Department of Labor reported job growth that was higher than expected for the month of July. The addition of 117,000 jobs to the economy is much higher than what economists had predicted, and has renewed confidence in the stock markets the day after they saw a huge plunge reflecting the growing uncertainty in the Euro-zone. With this increase in jobs, unemployment is down to 9.1%. Read here.
Now Boarding: The F.A.A. shut-down has finally come to an end–for now. The Federal Aviation Administration’s operating authority has been extended to Sept. 16, allowing construction to continue and people to come back to work and take home wages. The unfortunate shut-down cost the government millions of dollars, took thousands of employees out of work, and was the product of differences between Democrats and Republicans on the rights of unions and concern for the viability of rural airports when they become un-subsidized. Read here.
Pipe Half Full: Looks like we aren’t the only one’s who have a problem with TransCanada’s agenda. TransCanada is currently under fire from the East Coast for increasing their toll prices on transporting natural gas to New York. TC’s reasoning for increasing their prices is that their line has been running half empty (or half full) in recent years. New York has asked the National Energy Board to force TC to absorb the costs and protect consumers from being threatened. Add this conflict to the long list of reasons to steer clear of business with TransCanada.
Thurs, August 4th
President Obama turns the big 5-0 today. He has two private parties at the White House this afternoon, but his real present came last night, when he raised $3.6 million at 3 birthday-themed fundraising events in Chicago. Here’s you Roundup:
Action Needed: This week, State Sen. Ken Haar said the legislature should convene a special session this fall to discuss routing issues and environmental concerns surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline. Haar acknowledges that the state does have authority over pipeline routes, and with a federal decision coming soon on the project, there is absolutely no time to waste. Yet, there are still a few state senators who think we do have time to waste (as if we didn’t waste enough time last session). “I understand that there’s real concern across the state and in the Legislature about the pipeline,” said State Sen. Mike Flood, the speaker of the legislature. “But does it require immediate action?” Read here.
Slow Motion: Think your internet connection sucks? Well, if you live in Nebraska, a new study finds that it probably does. Nebraska ranked 9th on the list of the top 10 states with the slowest internet speed, with Idaho being the slowest. But it’s not just about the time it takes to refresh your facebook feed in Omaha that is problematic, rural areas suffer the most from slow internet speeds. And with more Nebraska farmers using social media to advocate and educate the world about ag issues, they are put at a disadvantage because of unequal access. Read here.
“Super Senator”: Sen. Mike Johann’s name has been floated around as a possible McConnell pick for the new deficit-cutting “Super Congress.” Yet, Johanns doesn’t seem interested. Can you blame him, though? Right now it looks like party leaders and interest groups are pushing for hard-liners who are unwilling to work towards a compromise. For example, Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and opponent of all tax increases, said he has already been assured by “the right people” that House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell will not choose anyone willing to give ground on raising taxes. Here we go again. Read here.
Loud Voices: This week, 19 researchers from Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, and Columbia wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The signatories include geophysicists, oceanographers, climatologists, biologists and engineers. Read here.
Secret Cash: A mysterious company donated $1 million into a Romney PAC and then dissolved a few months after it was formed. The records of the company, called W Spann LCC, provide no information on the owner of the firm, its address or type of business. And because of our loose campaign finance rules, no one will know who is behind the company that made one of the largest donations thus far in the 2012 presidential campaign. Read here.
Wed, August 3rd
Happy Ramadan to our Muslim friends. On the second day of Ramadan my true love gave to me….a debt deal no one seems happy about. The debt deal was signed into law by Obama yesterday, avoiding default but not stopping the debate. Here’s your Roundup:
Split Support: The debt vote left everyone with some strange observations about Nebraska politicians. All our House Reps voted in favor of the deal, with Terry not doing so before whining about that horrible Tea Party talking point–the balance budget amendment. Johanns added a “yea” vote, and Nelson voted “nay.” Nelson said he couldn’t support the deal and the negative effects on Medicare. There’s still debate if Obama could have used the 14th Amendment, an option looking better and better as the hours past since the debt deal’s signing. Senate vote here. Article here.
Not Happy: The opposition to the debt deal may be the strongest from the President’s own party. This is because Democrats see the necessity of a balanced approach and know that revenue must increase for a successful debt reduction plan. Even Reagan’s top policy and budget directors have recently come out against Obama–for not raising revenue! Harry Reid stated yesterday that revenue increases will be part of the deal in the Super Congress, or defense spending will get the ax. Read here.
Not Again: No candidate wants to tie themselves to President Bush. For many voters, that’s political suicide. But Romney said, “Who cares!” to this unwritten rule, and he does so in an appalling way. Romney’s judicial advisers consist of former Bush lawyers, and they are specifically the same lawyers that argued for the legality of torture. Read here.
Extinction!: Oh no everyone, if we allow birth control to be covered by insurance with no co-pays, it’ll be our county’s own undoing, because we’ll all die off! Dramatic? We think so, but this is the political theatre Rep. Steve King (R-IA) brought to the House floor. The truth is, this expanded coverage is a good thing and brings an aspect of safety to those who may have not previously had it. Read here.
Support your fellow Nebraskans: GROW Nebraska is in the running for Pepsi’s Refresh Everything contest where they could win funding to improve Nebraska’s small businesses. Support them here.
Tuesday, Aug 2nd
Congress is like your average, irresponsible college kid; they wait to the absolute last minute to get anything done and only do it because they’re close to failing. That said, the Senate will vote at noon today on the deal, allowing merely hours for Obama to approve the deal before the midnight deadline. Here’s your Roundup:
It’s About the Kids: In this editorial, the Omaha World-Herald staff explain how the privatization of Nebraska’s foster care system has failed to bring about better results. In fact, the number of foster homes declined by 8%, the costs have gone up, and payments to foster parents have gone overdue. The editorial calls on Gov. Heineman to step up and get serious about helping these foster kids because they can’t wait years until for the system to be repaired. Read here.
An Accomplishment?: We may have narrowly escaped a recklessly manufactured economic disaster, but economists and budget experts say the deal gets nowhere near the root of our long-term debt problem. Instead, it puts off the hardest decisions for later, and does nothing to address the real problem in the short run, which is high unemployment. According to one analyst, “The real problem here is the mismatch between growing entitlement spending and revenues. And what don’t they address here? Growing entitlements and revenues.” Read here.
Good News: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise return to the House floor yesterday to cast her vote in favor of the the debt deal. The House erupted in a long applause as Giffords shook hands and thanked her collegues. Watch here.
Goodwill Hunting: Remember earlier this year with Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans stripped bargaining rights from teachers? And talking heads on Fox discussed how greedy teachers were draining the state budget? The issue may have disappeared from the media spotlight, but teachers in Ohio, Florida and New Jersey have also been under fire from their right-wing governors. As the son of a teacher, Matt Damon recently marched in Washington for the Save our Schools Rally, which advocates for public education reform. In this video, Damon has a rather serious exchange with a few reporters from a libertarian website defending his mother and teachers everywhere. Watch here.
Birthday Shoutout: It is Omaha Sen. Heath Mello’s birthday today! Wish him a happy birthday via twitter @heathmello.
Monday, Aug 1st
Compromise at last! But, who had the most concessions in this give and take game. Neither side seems happy, but it looks like we can expect default to be off the table. Deficit negotiations are the name of the game today. Here’s your Roundup.
The Plan: Obama and speaker Boehner came to an agreement in regards to the debt ceiling. The plan, which seems to give Republicans a victory they refuse to acknowledge, involves no revenue increases and pushes a decision on entitlement reform to a later date. While the agreement pushes the debt ceiling past 2013, negotiations are not complete. There are sure to be further altercations as decisions are yet to be reached in regards to the cuts that will be necessary to reach the 2 trillion in cuts. Stay updated here.
Winners and Losers: The plan seems to be right up the right’s alley. Obama accomplished the goal of avoiding default, but many on the left are crying foul as it could potentially put entitlements in danger down the road. While Obama says tax reform will take place down the road, analysist like Paul Kruger are angered at what he sees as too many concessions by Obama. What the agreement boils down to is the fact that Obama reached a deal, showing his ability to work with all sides. Shame may be placed to multiple individuals for the faults of this deal, but Repubs have no room for complaint and the finger can be pointed at them for pushing this debate so close to the brink. Read Kruger’s opinion here.
Who has the power? A possible downfall of the debt deal: the power it grants to lobbyist. The plan promises 2 trillion in cuts, but at this point only 500 billion is guaranteed and detailed. That leaves 1.5 trillion up in the air with both Republicans and Democrats feeling as though some of their priorities are in danger. The lobbyist game is nothing new to Washington and the role they will play in negotiations may not be changeable, however, that doesn’t mean anyone should lay down on the issue. Feel passionate about the debate? Do you possess rational goals and realize that to fulfill our obligations to this country’s future than we must have a balance approach with revenue increases? If so, do not let this agreement satisfy you if it is to pass congress. Continue to call and speak with your Representatives. The clogged phone lines at the House show that your voice, especially the collective voices of Americans, are important and can be used to overcome the corrupt nature of those big corporation lobbyists. Read Here.
As if we didn’t know: No surprise, oil companies racked in the profits again. These are the same oil corporations protected by Republicans who refuse to cut their subsidies. Why we continue to ask, are we giving money to these companies (money that the GOP keeps assuring us we do not have) when their profits are not creating jobs? These massive profits are merely padding the pocketbooks of CEOs and oil execs, and they will continue to do just fine without government subsidies. Read Here.
On another front: Some good news from health care-insurers will soon be required to cover birth control with no copays. The drug, which is the most common with U.S. women, will finally be more accessible to the populace through the health care reform package. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius followed a recommendation by a panel from the Institute of Medicine said that not covering birth control was the equivalent of not covering flu shots. This is just one example of the benefits that will come into effect through the coming years as a result of the President’s health care reform. Read Here.