Guest Blogs

Saturday
Mar022013

Congresswoman Shea-Porter - It will take compromise and courage to solve sequester impasse

On Tuesday, I went to the floor of the House of Representatives to say we should do more than just one simple vote a day (Tuesday's only real vote was to develop an academic competition, Monday's was to rename a flight facility), and that we really needed to work on the biggest issue - a sequester compromise.

Suddenly, Republican Speaker John Boehner walked in, repeated his comments about how the House had already passed two bills last Congress to avert the sequester, blamed the Democrats for holding out for a compromise bill, and departed.  While I was there to talk about a compromise to avoid the sequester, the Speaker, the only one who actually can make that happen in the House, basically told anyone watching CSPAN that he had already done his part, that he was finished.

So goes a typical day in Washington. A few insults are hurled at the Senate and around the House, and everyone goes home, a day's work left undone. No debate on jobs. No debate on fair and careful deficit reduction. No legislative solutions offered, none voted upon. And when the sequester hits if Congress does not compromise, we will see the consequences - jobs lost in New Hampshire and across America, many Americans finding it even harder to get by.

Remember the "jobs, jobs, jobs" campaign chant? I can't even hear a whisper of the word now in the House, because everyone is yelling so loudly about the sequester. Is there a path to a solution here? I do believe there is, but it will call for compromise and courage.

Both parties agree the debt is too large. We may not agree on what spending was necessary, but we all agree that going forward, we need to reduce the debt. Since Congress already passed a first round of cuts, amounting to $1.5 trillion in discretionary cuts (which caused the economy to contract last quarter), we should now compromise and limit and slow down a second round, so we can absorb it. We should scrutinize and reduce spending where appropriate, but do it gradually, so we do not shock the economy, increase joblessness, and slow down our recovery. The sequester will cut $85 billion this year, and $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That is too severe for a fragile economy.

The sequester will hurt both defense and domestic programs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the sequester will reduce economic growth in 2013 by one-third. These cuts will make us lose about a million jobs, force federal workers to take furloughs and lose 20 percent of their pay, and hack services that range from Meals on Wheels to school aid, from work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to work in the National Guard. Hospitals will suffer, nonprofits will struggle, and small and large businesses will feel the pain also, when people are laid off and cannot spend. Everyone will feel the pain eventually because the sequester calls for the axe to fall evenly across the federal government, half the cuts coming from defense and half coming from domestic programs. The only group that is happy about this is the group that largely caused this, the tea party. As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, "Although Democratic and Republican leaders are pointing fingers, the tea party and its allies are happily accepting credit for the cuts."

While I believe that many members from both parties would like to work this out, Speaker Boehner and his leadership team control the House. They alone decide what bills will be put on the floor for a vote. To date, they have refused to allow votes on any plans to avert the sequester. They wouldn't even change the schedule so Congress can at least be in session today, the day the sequester hits. We cannot compromise if we aren't there, and we can't vote on a compromise if no compromise bills are brought to the floor for a debate and a vote.

Most Americans want Congress to work together. They want us to reduce costs and find revenue by stopping unnecessary subsidies. They want us to get the job done, but most members of Congress can only do what they are doing - sit, wait, and wonder why we can't have those debates and those votes. Debates and votes require courage and compromise. Maybe that's why we aren't having any, but Americans have a right to demand it.

See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130301/OPINION02/130309987#sthash.rUKSQehx.dpuf

Thursday
Feb142013

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter - Stop the Sequester

This is chapter twelve of “The Sky is Falling,” authored by Democrats in the House and Senate who opposed the 2011 Budget Control Act and the threat of the sequester it brought about. They warned that the economy would falter if the sequester came to pass. The Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, warned that the economy would fall if America did not pass a dramatic austerity program.  Their tea party members refused to raise the debt ceiling unless there were what they considered to be appropriate cuts to spending and what Democrats considered to be draconian cuts to spending. As America hung on the verge of default, and the tea party in the Republican Caucus refused to yield, the Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act.

The deal was that there would be a “supercommittee” that would find the spending cuts, but if they could not compromise, the deep cuts would be spread equally between defense and domestic programs.  Everyone just knew, just was positive, that the unthinkable would never happen, that Republicans would blink on defense and Democrats would blink on drastic cuts to everything else, and that there would be compromise.  But there wasn’t, and now the sky might actually fall right on our nation’s economic recovery.  Last quarter is the first time that the nation’s economy has shrunk in almost 40 months, and the reason is the impending sequester, with its deep and irrational cuts that require lay-offs, slow-downs and freezes. When you demand that the federal government spend at least 9% less across-the-board this year, and you don’t even have specific targets, you will have a lot of unintended and unwelcome consequences, ranging from defense to medical research to education to transportation programs, etc.  Those politicians who kept insisting that the government does not create jobs now have to watch their friends, family, and constituents who work for the government or rely on federal contracts face lay-offs, and they will see companies lose business and profits. The consequences of deep cuts are upon us.

The Defense Department has been sounding the alarm more than other Departments. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been going before Congress—the very ones who created this mess—and talking about the damage the sequester will do.  In a letter to Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Secretary Panetta wrote, “Such a large cut, applied in this indiscriminate manner, would render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable—you cannot buy three quarters of a ship or a building—and seriously damage other modernization efforts. We would also be forced to separate many of our civilian personnel involuntarily, and, because the reduction would be imposed so quickly, we would almost certainly have to furlough civilians in order to meet the target.”  Panetta goes on to say that this would “seriously damage readiness.” What he is talking about here is national security and jobs.  Is anyone listening yet?  Everyone knows there are savings to be had in the Department of Defense, but we should target those cuts so we do not jeopardize security or jobs.

While Secretary Panetta is warning the country about our national security, the sequester is threatening other programs and jobs.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says in a report that sequestration would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”

We need to stop this impending sequestration. We need to find a compromise that allows us to gradually reduce spending, while we find revenue from closing loopholes, reforming the tax code, and going after waste, fraud, and inefficiency.  There are other suggestions as well.  We could add a public plan to the health insurance exchanges. We could require the government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D.  We could raise the cap on Social Security.

But there is very little action on Capitol Hill to do just that.  Even if we wanted to discuss it, we cannot, because the House is not actually in Washington, DC very often these days.

Sequester will hurt our economy in New Hampshire.  It will hurt our national economy.  It will lead to lay-offs, and it will create more misery for the middle class and the poor. Congress has spoken.  Now they need to listen.  It is time to stop the sequester and create a viable plan that reduces spending gradually and keeps the economy growing.

###

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She previously served the District from 2007-2011, and she was reelected in the November 2012 election. The Congresswoman is again serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

Tuesday
Jan292013

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter - Time for Action

As I write this column, the news is covering still another shooting, this time on a college campus. We will learn who was involved, who was standing where when it happened, who witnessed it, who was hurt, who the hurt people’s friends and families are. Students—reportedly 10,000 students attend the college—will say how terrified they were. And then…the story of this shooting will be dropped from the news cycle, only to be replaced by another shooting story. And Americans will wonder why we can’t seem to stop the violence. Or can we?

When the children and teachers were executed in a mass murder at an elementary school, right before Christmas, while we were talking about love and faith and family and peace, everyone thought that this time, politicians would take action. It did seem for awhile that we had reached our breaking point, and that we would finally be ready to pass responsible gun legislation that would give us both the freedom to hunt and protect our families and the freedom to go about our daily lives without fear of being gunned down in still another act of violence. There was encouraging talk about passing legislation as quickly as possible, and President Obama did sign some Executive Orders with the families of the murdered six and seven year olds and the slain staff in the room.

The fight was already ugly, but that’s where it got uglier. The head of the National Rifle Association said that President Obama was “attacking firearms and ignoring children.” There was a sea of outrage that President Obama had children at the event. Children were at the site of the massacre—I think it is appropriate that children who knew it happened and wrote about it should be in the room when grownups say we are going to try to stop this from happening again to children, or anyone else. The NRA leadership also dragged the President’s own children into the fray, as they falsely warned that President Obama was going to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

Some in Congress were upset at even the mildest suggestions, such as doctors asking if there are guns in the house so they can talk about safety issues involved when there are children in the residence. Doctors ask if somebody smokes around children. They talk about being safe and careful with candles and stoves, but apparently, they should not ask about a huge killer of children—guns.

It’s time to stop the fighting and work on the solutions here. It is time to stop bowing to special interests and yes, the money they bring to campaigns, and talk about how we are going to protect both the right to have guns for sport and for protection, and the right to be safe from gun violence.

The easiest step should be to require background checks for gun sales. This means gun sales involving most private sales also. The majority of Americans support this plan. We also need to make sure that critical information is available when there is a background check. Records right now are too often incomplete, and do not identify a buyer’s criminal history or a dangerous mental illness.

It is time to end high-capacity magazine sales. It used to be that citizens had a chance to get away from a shooter when he had to stop to reload. But with high-capacity magazines, the killer can just keep firing away a lot longer, murdering many more innocent folks. Hunters do not need to fire 30 rounds. Neither do citizens exercising their right to defend themselves. I support banning magazines holding more than ten rounds. This will help law enforcement and the public to disarm a mass shooter, and it will give people a better chance to escape a madman.

I support President Obama’s call to close loopholes in gun trafficking laws, and to beef up law enforcement in communities. Let’s also step up mental health services, and work together to encourage a reduction of violence in video games and television and movies. All of these ideas should be the easiest to enact. There is another step, an assault weapon ban, that will require more political debate, but these ideas listed here are common-sense ideas that should have no political test of courage attached to them. Can’t we at least get this done now? Let’s get it done now. It already has been a long and deadly wait.

###

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She previously served the District from 2007-2011, and she was reelected in the November 2012 election. The Congresswoman is again serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

Monday
Jan142013

Ed Mosca - MYTH OF THE MACHINE

It seems to be an article of faith among some in the New Hampshire GOP that the down-ticket losses suffered by the NH GOP in the 2012 elections were primarily or even exclusively due to the Obama “ground game” or “machine.”  The numbers, however, do not support that explanation.

 

            Let’s begin with US House races in other states commonly labeled as “swing” or “battleground” states:

 

US House


GOP seats 2010

GOP seats 2012

% Change


Colorado

Obama +4%

4

4

0.0%


Florida

Obama +1%

19

17

-10.5%


Iowa

Obama +5%

2

2

0.0%


Nevada

Obama +6%

2

2

0.0%


New Hampshire

Obama +6%

2

0

-100.0%


North Carolina

Romney +2%

6

9

+50.0%


Ohio

Obama +2%

13

12

-7.7%


Virginia

Obama +3%

8

8

0.0%


Wisconsin

Obama +7%

5

5

0.0%


 

The NH GOP clearly underperformed other battleground states.  For example, although Obama won Wisconsin and Nevada by similar margins as New Hampshire, the GOP lost no seats in those states.

 

            The only other battleground state where there was a gubernatorial election was North Carolina, where the Republican candidate won by 55 to 43 percent, ten points better than Romney’s margin of victory.  In New Hampshire, Democrat Maggie Hassan also won by a twelve-point margin, which was double Obama’s.

 

            State legislative elections also fail to show a correlation between Obama’s performance and down-ticket results:

 


President

GOP state senate seats ’10-‘12


% Change

GOP state house seats ’10-‘12


% Change

Colorado

Obama +4%

15

16

+6.67%

33

28

-15.15%

 

Florida

Obama +1%

28

26

-7.14%

81

74

-8.64%

 

Iowa

Obama +5%

24

23

-4.17%

59

53

-10.17%

 

Nevada

Obama +6%

9

10

+11.11%

16

15

-6.25%

 

New Hampshire

Obama +6%

19

13

-31.58%

288

179

-37.85%

 

North Carolina

Romney +2%

31

32

+3.23%

67

77

+14.93%

 

Ohio

Obama +2%

23

23

0.00%

59

60

+1.69%

 

Virginia

Obama +3%

No State Elections in ‘12




 

Wisconsin

Obama +7%

15

18

+20.00%

58

60

+3.45%

 























            While the state senate races are not pure apple-to-apple comparisons because only Florida and North Carolina do not hold staggered elections, there clearly is no correlation between Obama’s performance and down-ticket races.  For example, in Nevada and Wisconsin, which Obama won by similar margins as NewHampshire, the GOP actually picked up senate seats.  The house races tell a similar story.  In Wisconsin, the GOP picked up house seats. And while the GOP lost house seats in Nevada, the degree of loss was insignificant compared to New Hampshire.     

 

            The next tables compare the GOP as a percentage of battleground state legislatures from 2010 to 2012, to take into account that the NH GOP held supermajorities in 2010. 

 


Total # Senate Seats

GOP seats 2010

% of Senate

GOP seats 2012

% of Senate

Change

Colorado

35

15

42.9%

16

45.7%

+2.9%

Florida

40

28

70.0%

26

65.0%

-5.0%

Iowa

50

24

48.0%

23

46.0%

-2.0%

Nevada

21

9

42.9%

10

47.6%

+4.8%

New Hampshire

24

19

79.2%

13

54.2%

-25.0%

North Carolina

50

31

62.0%

32

64.0%

+2.0%

Ohio

33

23

69.7%

23

69.7%

0.0%

Virginia


No State Elections



Wisconsin

33

15

45.5%

18

54.5%

+9.1%

Average without NH


54.4%


56.1%










Total # House Seats

GOP 2010

% of House

GOP 2012

% of House

Change

Colorado

65

33

50.8%

28

43.1%

-7.7%

Florida

120

81

67.5%

74

61.7%

-5.8%

Iowa

100

59

59.0%

53

53.0%

-6.0%

Nevada

42

16

38.1%

15

35.7%

-2.4%

New Hampshire

400

288

72.0%

179

44.8%

-27.3%

North Carolina

120

67

55.8%

77

64.2%

8.3%

Ohio

99

59

59.6%

60

60.6%

1.0%

Virginia


No State Elections



Wisconsin

99

58

58.6%

60

60.6%

2.0%

Average without NH


55.6%


54.1%


 

            While no battleground state went into the 2012 election with as high a GOP majority in the state senate as New Hampshire, three states had majorities near or above 60 percent and in only one of these states did the GOP lose seats.  And while the Florida state senate declined from 70 to 65 percent Republican that was nowhere near the 79 to 54 percent drop in New Hampshire. 

 

            House results were similar.  The Florida house declined from 67.5 to 61.7 percent Republican, in comparison to the precipitous 72 to 44.8 percent decline in New Hampshire, while the GOP extended its sizable majorities in Ohio andWisconsin.

 

            In sum, the data indicates that it would be a mistake to primarily attribute the down-ticket losses suffered by the NH GOP in 2012 to the Obama “machine.”  This is not to suggest that the NH GOP should not improve its “GOTV.”  Rather, what I am suggesting is that it would be a mistake not to also consider why the gubernatorial nominee substantially underperformed Romney and why the New Hampshire House, at 44.8 percent GOP, is well below the 54.1 percent average in battleground states.

 




Edward C. Mosca

Thursday
Dec272012

Ed Mosca - NH House Democrats Seek To Legalize Mob-Rule 

Incredibly (or perhaps not so incredibly if you were present on March 31, 2011 and watched House Democrats give a standing ovation to an unruly and menacing mob of protestors while they were being evicted from the House gallery), House Democrats are bringing forward legislation that would give their special interest constituencies the legal right to shut down the House and Senate whenever things aren’t going their way.  Specifically, Rep Tim Horrigan is sponsoring a bill that would require a body of the Legislature that closes its gallery while in session to immediately recess and to remain in recess until its gallery is reopened.  Let’s consider the implications if such a law had been in effect last session.

            During the budget bill debate on March 31, 2011, a raucous and apparently preplanned outburst of shouting from certain Democrat special interest constituencies who had packed the House gallery made it impossible to continue conducting legislative business.  The gallery was cleared and closed, and the House was able to resume its business, working through a series of dilatory amendments proposed by Democrats.  The gallery was reopened before the final vote, and the budget was passed.

            If Horrigan’s bill had been law and had been followed, the House would have had to go into recess and remain in recess until the gallery was reopened.  Which means that all the special interest constituencies would have needed to do to block the budget was to repack the gallery every time it was reopened, renew the protest, and force the House back into recess.  This is not democracy; this is mob-rule. 

            Horrigan’s bill is blatantly unconstitutional.  The New Hampshire Constitution gives the House (Part II, Article 22) and the Senate (Part II,Article 37) the exclusive authority to set their own rules of proceeding.  That means each body gets to decide on its own if to recess and and how long to recess. 

            Horrigan contends that his mob-rule bill is constitutional because it just effectuates what already is required by Part II, Article 8, which provides that “[t]he doors of the galleries, of each house of the legislature, shall be kept open to all persons who behave decently, except when the welfare of the state, in the opinion of either branch, shall require secrecy.”

            Horrigan confuses the means with the end.  The historical record of Part II, Article 8 makes it clear that its purpose was open government, to allow the citizens to be informed by preventing the Legislature from conducting its business in secret.  In 1792, physically keeping the doors to the House and Senate open to the public at all times was the only way to achieve open government.  Television, radio and Internet did not exist and were inconceivable.

            The House conducted its business after the gallery was closed on March 31, 2011 in a far more open manner than required by a literal reading of Part II, Article 8.  The proceedings continued to be live-streamed, and none of the press, television-cameras or recording equipment was removed.  To claim, as Horrigan does, that live-streaming does not effectuate the purpose of Part II, Article 8 is equivalent to claiming that the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment apply only to the forms of communication and the types of search technology that existed in the 18th century.    

            While it was unfortunate that some had to suffer because of the selfish and stupid actions of the protestors during the budge debate in 2011, it simply was not practical to immediately reopen the gallery.  It was eminently reasonable to assume, given the scale of the demonstrations occurring outside the Statehouse and the obviously planned nature of the outburst, that there was a sizable number of additional protestors who would enter the gallery, if it were immediately reopened, in order to renew the disruption.  Moreover, there was no efficacious way to prevent most of the expelled protestors from being readmitted to the gallery.  While some probably could have been identified because they were especially menacing and vociferous, there were simply too many to have any confidence that security had the capacity to identify and exclude most of them.

            Horrigan’s mob-rule bill can be understood as a manifestation of O-O-S: O’Brien-Obsession-Syndrome.  A visceral reaction against anything former Speaker O’Brien is for, and a visceral reaction for anything O’Brien is against.